Back in the fall of 2016, our community came together to tell a story of collaboration, action, and results. Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky haven’t always been known for having the best health outcomes, and we have often lagged behind other regions in terms of eating healthfully, living actively, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress. However, awareness is growing, and community organizations and healthcare providers alike are doing more to address and prevent upstream causes of poor health.
In order to share our story and gain insights from the successes of other communities, The Health Collaborative has partnered with the City of Cincinnati Health Department to submit an application for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize.
The Culture of Health prize recognizes US communities for their accomplishments in catalyzing and sustaining positive changes across systems and policies; harnessing the collective power of community leaders and residents; efficiently and effectively sharing resources; and collectively measuring and monitoring progress toward better health. There are three distinct phases of the application process: Phase I Application, Phase II Application, and Phase III Site Visits with Finalist Communities. Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, as a region, are fortunate to be chosen along with 31 applicant communities, out of a pool of 210, to move beyond Phase I into Phase II (announced earlier this month).
The application encompasses a seven-county region in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky. As community highlights were gathered for the application it was inspiring to see all that is being done in our region, by so many organizations, to engage residents in making health a value we share. More than 20 programs, initiatives, and strategies were highlighted in the November 2016 Phase I application, with more detail and support provided in the Phase II essay. We want to share just a handful of these achievements here in order to celebrate and bring more attention to the Culture of Health that’s currently emerging here in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, regardless of whether we are chosen for the prize.
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Understanding that sustainable employment and financial independence are key elements of good health, our corporate community has partnered with local, state, and national sources to fund services to assist over 9,100 individuals across four career pathway partnerships. Of that total, 81% completed training, earning over 9,100 credentials, and 80% obtained employment, with 69% retaining employment after 12 months.[/mk_toggle][mk_toggle title=”Green Umbrella” icon=”mk-flaticon-umbrella14″ icon_color=”#eb7625″]Our regional environmental collaborative Green Umbrella has been working to connect populations to destinations by increasing pedestrian and bike friendly routes. They have been successful in increasing federal and local funding for these efforts to $191 million, up from just $2 million in the previous regional planning cycle. This opportunity to shift away from vehicle-centric communities will create new opportunities for transportation to catalyze active lives. Green Umbrella also has initiatives focused on local food production, waterways, and the preservation of green space.[/mk_toggle][mk_toggle title=”Interact for Health” icon=”mk-flaticon-fire13″ icon_color=”#eb7625″]Interact for Health is a foundation dedicated to funding upstream initiatives for improving the health of people in the community. The foundation supports education, programs, and policy advocacy and has awarded over 300 grants, investing more than $111 million across the region. The majority of their grants fund healthy eating, active living, mental and emotional well-being, and healthy choices about substance abuse. The grant-making process favors under-resourced neighborhoods and resident-led approaches.[/mk_toggle][mk_toggle title=”Center for Great Neighborhoods” icon=”mk-flaticon-molecular” icon_color=”#eb7625″]In Covington, the Center for Great Neighborhoods has been a catalyst for healthy growth in Northern Kentucky. The Center redeveloped an abandoned lumber mill into a community building co-locating social service and health programs with local artists, thus harnessing the synergistic power of creative place-making. Accomplishments to date include the Center’s successful pilot of its Healthy Corner Store program in 2016, which worked with three local stores to increase access to fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods in Covington. The Center also seeded backyard gardens by providing 64 families with all resources needed to start their own produce garden. A three-day Healthy Mind and Body camp for youth focused on the benefits of good mental health, nutritious eating, and being physically active. The Center also provides creative community grants to artists implementing creative solutions to community-identified topics, with 2016 projects focused on inclusion and health.[/mk_toggle][mk_toggle title=”Lincoln Heights and Madisonville” icon=”mk-flaticon-home62″ icon_color=”#eb7625″]The Lincoln Heights Village Council has adopted a social health pathway resolution, which focuses on economic stability, education, social and community context, health and healthcare, and the built environment. Accomplishments to date include a variety of new active living facilities, including two new playgrounds and two walking trails; engagement with the faith community to adopt wellness programs and tobacco free campuses; agreements with two churches to open their recreation facilities to the public; and engaging child care centers in an evidence-based physical activity and nutrition curriculum. Additionally, to address the lack of a full service grocery in the village, a corner market committed to selling produce and became an approved SNAP vendor. Meanwhile, a community garden initiative is growing strong.
In Madisonville, residents prioritized two risk factors for neighborhood decline. Their neighborhood school, a local hub for engagement, was at risk for closing due to low enrollment. Additionally, the community was a food desert. Working with school officials, the residents helped inform improvements needed at the school to attract new families. They followed that with outreach in the community to encourage families to enroll their children rather than use vouchers to access schools outside the community. They addressed their food access issue with a goal to plant 500 community and backyard gardens. By the summer of 2016, the count was up to nearly 700 gardens with produce being traded and shared across the community. This renewed attention to health led to a very popular “yoga in the park” program, and neighbors are working with transportation planning organizations to expand a trail that would connect Madisonville to a major bike route.[/mk_toggle][mk_toggle title=”First Ladies Health Initiative” icon=”mk-li-star Character Code:e611″ icon_color=”#eb7625″]The wife of the Mayor of Cincinnati, First Lady Dena Cranley, helped to organize pastors’ wives (First Ladies) in nearly 40 African-American congregations for a Cincinnati chapter of the First Ladies Health Initiative. The women saw tremendous potential in working together to share ideas, resources and work together on common issues. Now the First Ladies are leveraging their considerable influence to empower their congregations and communities to make smart decisions regarding their health.
One area of focus is services to expectant mothers to emphasize the benefits of regular prenatal care and healthy lifestyle habits. Area churches have also held annual Health Day Celebrations. The First Ladies each select the health services they would like to have available at their churches and recruit medical volunteers. Services may include HIV, diabetes, hypertension, lung disease, and asthma screenings, as well as flu shots, breast exams, prostate exams, dental vouchers, vision testing, and behavioral health assessments.
In 2016, this initiative attracted more than 3,000 adults and children in 22 locations. Where health issues were identified, patients were counseled and offered the opportunity to book an appointment during the consultation if they did not have a usual source of care. 800 volunteers donated their time to reduce health disparities and improve the well-being of their congregations. The over 40 community partners included local health systems, several large employers, the American Cancer Society, and the American Lung Association, to name just a few.[/mk_toggle][mk_toggle title=”The Greater Cincinnati Foundation” icon=”mk-flaticon-big81″ icon_color=”#eb7625″]The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) has convened a community of practice that brings together organizations using the collective impact model to address health, economic development, environmental issues, empowerment for women, workforce development, and the arts. This partnership helps forge cross-sector partnerships and break down silos.
One of the partners, our Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) office through its Place Matters initiative, has invested in capacity-building in key neighborhoods to support resident leadership. Residents have identified neighborhood priorities including barriers to health and vitality. From this invaluable foundation, active and engaged neighbors are able to approach community leadership with their own vision and a sense of empowerment. The community of practice is able to respond with connections and access to resources and investments that bring that vision to life. In the Madisonville example above, elements of transportation, food access, education, and community activation came together to overcome threats to neighborhood vitality. It’s an example of how neighborhood capacity building is crossing sectors and expanding the definition of health and well-being.[/mk_toggle]
Through these and countless other ways, Greater Cincinnati is making health a value we share – and for that reason, we believe we are worthy of recognition for our culture of health. Stay tuned for updates as we move through the RWJF application process and continue to tell our community story. We will receive word in early March on whether we have been selected for Phase III site visits.