This perspective informed our Community Action Model, which is relevant for a variety of community health goals. This model highlights the importance of a community’s context, defines six essential practices for success, and outlines a 3P Action Cycle: Partner, Prepare, and Progress. It also presents some expected impacts. This model can be useful to community coalitions, local leaders looking for a collaborative process to creating healthier places, and to funders seeking a tested approach for local investments.
Community context plays a vital role in healthy communities work. Every community has its own culture, assets, history of achievement, and challenges on which to build. When funders, local leaders, and partnerships fully recognize and understand these unique community settings, it helps direct strategies and tactics to better align with and leverage various dynamics at play.
Healthy Places by Design believes six Essential Practices are critical for creating meaningful and sustained change in communities. They address how a partnership can be most effective and sustain its impact and who it should involve and strive to serve.
The 3P Action Cycle is not necessarily linear; rather, this community change process is intended to be iterative. Healthy Places by Design recommends a community change process that is intentional about partnership, preparation, and strategic progress to change policies, systems, and environments for improved community health.
Local partnerships can achieve impressive and lasting results from healthy community initiatives that fully employ the Community Action Model. These impacts stem from actions taken during the 3P Action Cycle, from integrating the Essential Practices, and from each of the strategies that are implemented.
In 2003, high poverty rates and old infrastructure were affecting the health of residents in Buffalo, New York. A public–private initiative, led by Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., was launched to improve community health. Partnerships were born, community members were engaged, and sustainable impacts have since transformed the city.
In a city striving for revitalization, one key asset had been long neglected: an extensive park system. Partners in Flint, MI, set out to make parks a local priority again by building residents’ capacity through facilitative leadership.
Since its launch in 2009, an initiative to make healthy living easier called WeTHRIVE! has grown into a “social movement” in Hamilton County, Ohio. What started with 50 people in three communities has expanded to more than 189,000 people throughout 19 communities. This still-growing movement is a result of sustainable thinking from the start.
Starting in 2010, leaders in Jefferson County, Alabama faced a series of sobering financial and environmental challenges that impacted their ability to deliver essential services to the region’s most vulnerable residents. Despite these challenges, ongoing collaboration and a spirit of flexible persistence have enabled the county to scale and sustain healthy community change.
Thanks to community engagement and a commitment to sustainable thinking, more neighborhoods in Louisville, KY now have safe and affordable housing, access to healthy food, and convenient places to walk, bike, and play. Leaders and residents alike are attuned to the impact that education, employment, housing, transportation, and related issues have on their health.
New Orleans, LA, has spent the last decade recovering from Hurricane Katrina. In a city of close-knit neighborhoods, part of that recovery was the addition of over 100 miles of bike lanes around local schools. This success was driven by the KidsWalk Coalition and its commitment to strategic communication and a culture of learning.
Socioeconomic differences and health disparities bisect Rancho Cucamonga, CA into two communities with distinct needs. Healthy RC, a city–community partnership, is working to bridge that divide through authentic community engagement.
An innovative partnership in Santa Ana, CA is restoring open space so that residents can live safer and more active lives. And by practicing community engagement, facilitative leadership, and sustainable thinking, partners there are working toward lasting change.