Note: This article is cross-posted on APHA’s Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge Communities4Health blog and Healthy Places by Design’s blog.
Despite significant obstacles of the pandemic and systemic inequities, community health leaders continue to advance equity, shift power to residents, and make steady progress towards healthier neighborhoods. In June, we featured the work of Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (HCCC) grantees and the peer learning network facilitated and coordinated by Healthy Places by Design and its collaborators at APHA, Aetna Foundation, and NACo. We are happy to share these inspiring and hopeful updates from APHA’s most recent HCCC Highlights report. We urge you to read this post from our partner and colleague, Brittany Perrotte.
At a time when a global pandemic made it harder than ever for people to connect, teams from the 20 Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge communities have found ways to successfully grow their partnerships and raise awareness about solutions in their communities related to accessing food and health services.
HCCC project teams have stepped up to support their partners in meeting the immediate needs of community residents, while also planting the seeds for long-term systems change.
Even more impressive, though, is the way they’ve integrated residents into the leadership of their work and shared decision-making power, despite the barriers of social distancing. As a result, community members have more ownership of the successes seen so far. Not only that, but Challenge teams have noticed subtle shifts in thinking within themselves, their organizations, their partners and the broader community to be more inclusive.
Take Kerrville, Texas, for example. The Hope4Health team works in the Doyle neighborhood, a historically segregated community that fell below the radar for decades. The project team has uplifted the Doyle community so that it is no longer isolated, receiving support from organizations and faith-based institutions in other parts of the city.
The work happening in Doyle is now considered to be “the city’s example of a model for change to improve health and wellness,” according to a member of the project team. The team shared that being a part of the larger HCCC initiative lends credibility to their work and has moved others “to take action to be a part of this movement for change.”
As a result of these shifts, and their careful planning and preparation, all 20 communities have achieved exciting new developments in recent months. Our new HCCC Highlights report delves deeper into grantee success stories, updating the work of all 20 communities from January through June 2021. Some of the most outstanding highlights:
But the work doesn’t stop here. HCCC communities will continue to address access barriers to food and health services, employ authentic community engagement and multisector partnership strategies and advance health equity in areas most impacted by chronic disease disparities throughout the final year of the Challenge. Planned activities include:
The coming year should be filled with stories of systemic change in communities, so check back often for updates, and be sure to follow #Communities4Health!
Learn more about the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge and read the full HCCC Highlights report for more insights for community practitioners and funders of systems change initiatives.
If you’re interested in connecting with one of our communities or have resources to share, you can email us anytime.