In September 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a multi-year initiative to prevent and control chronic disease at the community level. Named the National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention — or Partnering4Health — five organizations are working with selected chapters and affiliates to strengthen health in their communities.
A member of the Partnering4Health project, Plan4Health is collaborating with the American Heart Association (AHA), National WIC Association (NWA), Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE), and Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) to support 97 coalitions across the country.
Community engagement is important for achieving a shared vision of community health and well-being, but reaching vulnerable communities can be challenging for a number of reasons. As part of the CDC-funded Partnering4Health project, 50 communities around the country are using a variety of strategies to improve community health, and many are focusing on ways to meet the needs of vulnerable populations. For these communities, having the right people at the table is one step in promoting chronic disease prevention and achieving health equity.
Members of vulnerable and minority communities are disproportionately affected by conditions that lead to chronic disease due to factors such as such as race and ethnicity, education, income, or even geographic location. Improving community health requires community input and feedback for success. One such community is St. Tammany Parish Hospital Community Wellness Center in Covington, Louisiana. Located 30 minutes outside of New Orleans, St. Tammany Parish has obesity, cholesterol and high blood pressure rates well above state and national averages. Program staff at the center noted that although the center is located in a low-income neighborhood, the local health coalition did not have adequate representation from the neighborhood. Additional community member engagement, awareness, and participation in program activities will increase the effectiveness of programs.
Community engagement is the process of working collaboratively with and through groups of people affiliated by location or similar situations to address issues affecting their well-being. This process offers coalitions credibility to serve as catalysts for policy, systems and environmental change. Among the 50 communities of the CDC-funded Partnering4Health project, many are paying special attention to engagement in efforts to gain diverse representation in local coalitions to improve community health and achieve health equity. These groups are finding ways to engage stakeholders, build trust, create lasting relationships and ultimately, learn more about the populations they serve.
St. Tammany Parish Hospital has built a large and diverse coalition that includes stakeholders who want to bring about change for the community. Developing key relationships can increase resources. Gaining the support of two key individuals with strong community connections provided St. Tammany Parrish Wellness Center the opportunity to start a community garden.
The new community garden is one of several strategies for increasing access to healthy food for parish residents. St. Tammany Parish’s coalition has seen a spike in interest and support for programs with more people offering resources and wanting to be coalition members. Community engagement draws from community strengths, builds trust and community pride. It improves program reach and provides benefit to all, including the most vulnerable among us.
Partnering4Health is a national collaborative of five national agencies: American Heart Association, American Planning Association, National WIC Association (NWA), Directors of Health Promotion and Education, and Society of Public Health Education. To further increase the capacity of local groups, like NWA site St. Tammany Parish Hospital, the Partnering4Health project offers tools, resources and training, such as in community engagement. Partnering4Health’s funded communities have laid the foundation for genuine buy-in and support of local health initiatives through community engagement. Community engagement leads to health equity, and health equity ensures that all members of a community have an opportunity to achieve optimal health.
Your Involvement Is Key
Become engaged in your local health coalition and learn about the community health initiatives occurring in your local area. Your voice in local discussions on community well-being contributes to having your needs and the needs of those you care about addressed in ways that work for you! To learn more about Partnering4Health project and its funded communities, check out DHPE’s project website and join us on social media by using and following #Partnering4Health.
Success story content from the Directors of Health Promotion and Education.