HKHC: Columbia, Missouri


Excerpt from Lessons for Leaders:

The Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods partnership in Columbia addressed significant creative tension around issues of race and class by slowing down its timeline and investing in greater community engagement, cultural competency, strategic relationship building, youth advocacy and leadership development.

For more information, read the full story.

July 2014

Columbia is a college town located in the center of Missouri, midway between Kansas City to the west and St. Louis to the east. It is not a highly diverse community overall, but Ward One and other neighborhoods have much greater racial and ethnic diversity, higher rates of poverty and crime, and more students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch in the public schools. 

In order to provide children in these areas with safe, socially connected environments that support outdoor play, active travel and access to affordable, nutritious foods close to home, a partnership that ultimately named itself Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods (U4HN), pursued an intensive community engagement, assessment and capacity building effort, and established six community-based action teams to lay the groundwork for advocacy and change.

Led by a well-established active transportation group called the PedNet Coalition and anchored across strategies managed by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health, the partnership was comprised of a long-time group of grassroots advocates, public schools, academics and leaders from government and the faith-based community. Together, they succeeded at creating widespread change to increase health equity.

Key achievements include:

Has Unite 4 Healthy Neighborhoods really made a difference? Project Director, Ian Thomas, certainly thinks so. “Beyond the strategic alliances and tremendous positive change we’ve seen in the community, the public conversations about health, place and the importance of policies to making Columbia a truly healthy place for everyone have all become more commonplace,” says Thomas. “Now that I’ve been elected to the City Council, they can only become more so!”