As has become an annual activity for our organization, before we ring in the new year, we take a look back at events, projects and moments from 2014 that have impacted the health care scene in our communities and our nation.
On day three of our Year In Review series, Health Forward Program Officer Brenda Calvin shares lessons from the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy (formerly Healthy Lifestyles Leadership Academy).
It’s never too late to keep learning.
It was with that premise that two years ago the Health Forward Foundation began the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy.
In 2014, the first class of 15 participants graduated from the academy and walked away with many lessons learned. In our post-academy interviews, they shared their experiences with us, and, while our graduates clearly identified lessons that would present unique benefits for their organization from the academy, we recognized four common themes in their feedback.
Graduates talked about the confidence they had gained in advocating for change and building consensus for ideas.
Alicia Nelson, Independence Health Department, said the Leadership Academy not only improved her confidence in performing work related to healthy eating, active living and tobacco reduction, but also “reinforced and provided a renewed hope that a happy and healthy life can be attainable for all. I learned that creativity, imagination and the courage to stretch, question and challenge the way we do work must be at play if we are to facilitate sustainable change towards healthy communities.”
Alumni reported an increase of knowledge and understanding of healthy eating, active living, tobacco concerns and best practices from local and national sources.
John Hornbeck, Episcopal Community Services, shared that, for many years, the focus of their organization was “addressing hunger with a plate of food or a bag of groceries.” But the knowledge gained from the Academy has “served as a catalyst to move us down a new path that progresses from addressing food insecurity to one of addressing nutrition security as a foundation for family and community health.”
Several of our graduates admitted having a narrow focus in their efforts and the impact they could have on the community environment. Working together, they learned about the importance of partnerships in building health and policy changes to garner sustained improvements for under-resourced communities.
“The leadership academy helped me broaden my network to include other people who are working on policy and environmental changes around healthy lifestyles,” said Lucinda Noches Talbert.
Graduates also talked about their growing leadership skills.
“It has reframed my understanding of what leadership is and how acts of true leadership can move us toward lasting, systemic change. I am a more introspective person than I was a year ago and now look for the lessons and growth opportunities in my failures and successes,” said Gretchen Patch, Alliance for a Healthier Generation.
The second cohort of 14 participants in the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy began in October. Because we as a Foundation are also always learning, we took away some of our own lessons learned.
While feedback from the first class was positive, we realize that policy and environmental change is adaptive work and takes time to see sustained improvements.
With three alumni now members of the design team, we have shifted to focus on applied policy change learning. Participants will review case studies and shared individual experiences for more in-depth understanding of policy change strategies.
Another important lesson we learned is to consistently seek input and be realistic about expectations from our community partners.
As I look back on 2014, I’m so proud to have played a role in bringing together this first graduating class of the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy and thank everyone who has been involved.
I think Dina Newman with the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council said it best.
“The Healthy Communities Leadership Academy has taught me that real leadership is not a position or a title, but it’s your heart, your mind, your spirit and your soul engaging this life and this work on a level that can change not only your community, but the world.”