Healthy Places by Design is working with project leaders Marcy Green from Impact Alamance and Ann Meletzke from Healthy Alamance to develop and guide the Alamance Wellness Collaborative. The collaborative focuses on policy, systems, and environmental changes that support active living and healthy food access in Alamance County. Members include the local health department, hospital, city and county planning departments, parks and recreation departments, and nonprofits, among others.
Healthy Places by Design provides technical assistance and training to key stakeholders (elected officials, collaborative members, and other health advocates) to build their capacity to create and shape policy, systems, and environmental change strategies that allow all community members in Alamance County to have access to healthy options. We also guided a strategic planning process and helped write the plan for the collaborative.
Healthy Places by Design also co-facilitated a county-level group, the Alamance Wellness Collaborative, to support built environment changes that increase opportunities for community members to achieve their full health potential. In partnership with Impact Alamance and Healthy Alamance, our team leveraged our national network to identify technical experts and invite them to train local leaders on issues that were most relevant to residents’ priorities.
In 2018, we coached Collaborative members to address policy change in ways they didn’t previously know they could. For example, advocacy work had been associated with picket signs and highly visible events: big, loud, and public. We helped Collaborative members identify other routes, like having a local mother speak before city council and helping parks and recreation staff members advocate within their department. Due in part to these shifts in thinking, and with content support from our team, the city of Burlington in Alamance County passed a Health in All Policies resolution in February 2018. And, more recently, a tobacco-free policy in all Burlington parks went into effect on April 1, 2019.
Additional services provided included:
“We have been working with Healthy Places by Design for 5 years, and their team is always thinking strategically about how to move our work forward. This past year was a transformational one for our local Wellness Collaborative. Members of the group went from understanding the principals of policy, systems, and environmental change to actually implementing these strategies in their cities and towns. Three municipalities adopted tobacco-free policies, and one city voted to undertake a major investment in a greenway that will connect local resources. I have no doubt we would not be seeing these successes if it weren’t for the guidance and leadership of Healthy Places by Design.”
Program Director, Impact Alamance
“The process for guiding a community towards design rooted in health is long term work, and reshaping perceptions of equity to create spaces that support neighborhoods lacking infrastructure is complex. We couldn’t accomplish our goals without the support and expertise of Healthy Places by Design.”
Director, Impact Alamance
“A critical aspect of the Collaborative’s success has been the convening of truly interdisciplinary working teams in communities: elected and appointed board members, staff in planning, health, public works and engineering, schools, parks, housing, transit and economic development, advocates, and the business community. This allows communities to think about much more than just one-time events and short-term programs; these teams can [go on to] address policies and practices that define their residents’ everyday environments.”
Public Health, Planning, and Transportation Consultant
“This past year was a transformational one. Members of the Collaborative went from understanding the principals of policy, systems, and environmental change to actually implementing these strategies in their cities and towns.”
Alamance County, NC advocates are practicing a culture of learning with a do-it-yoursel(ves) spirit. And unlike fixing a leaky dishwasher, can’t be finished in a day—they’re facing complex problems that impact the health of people who live in their communities. However, improving community health is a trial-and-error process that, like many DIY projects, requires helping hands along the way.
We were learning about the resurfaced basketball courts at Green Level Municipal Park when someone asked, “What’s that?” and pointed at a fenced area about 100 yards away. What I’ve learned about that area since then is as amazing as it is unique.
The Alamance Wellness Collaborative and the Alamance-Burlington School System (ABSS) in NC worked with Healthy Places by Design to open all elementary school playgrounds for community-use after hours. This was only the sixth school system in North Carolina to create such a policy and the first to actively promote it with signage.