Health Collaborative Wins $25,000 in National Competition

February 20, 2019

Health Collaborative Wins $25,000 in National Competition

The Health Collaborative was selected as one of just eight runners up in the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge (the Challenge). Finishing in the top 5 for the 65,000 to 250,000 population tier, The Health Collaborative received another $25,000 in prize funding. Throughout the course of the two year challenge, The Health Collaborative has received a total of $60,000 in grants and prizes to invest in its community health improvement efforts.

The opportunity to participate in the Challenge came at an important time for the Dan River Region. As residents experience high rates of poverty, food insecurity, and chronic disease, The Health Collaborative took an integrated approach to creating an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice where people live, learn, work and play. With five main goal areas – active living, healthy eating, access to healthcare, creating healthy spaces and leadership and capacity building – The Health Collaborative recognized early on that a healthy population is crucial to ensuring the region’s social, economic and physical vitality.

“We recognize to solve our most pressing public health issues, we have to start at the local level – acknowledging the solutions to our problems are as diverse as the communities facing them,” said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation, an independent philanthropic arm of CVS Health, which is working to deliver on the company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health. “It is our hope the outstanding achievements of The Health Collaborative will serve as a catalyst for collaboration in local communities around the country working to move the needle in combating health disparities.”

The first cohort of Challenge participants were chosen out of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other entities that applied to enter the competition. Improvements were measured around at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures. The Challenge winners and runners up were selected with assistance from an Advisory Council of public health leaders including elected officials, professors and physicians. RAND Corporation was tapped to evaluate the improvements in social determinants of health achieved and identify the most promising practices with potential for replication.

“Being selected as a finalist and runner up in the Challenge is a major accomplishment,” said Elyse Jardine, project manager for The Health Collaborative. “In the past two years, our work has been nationally recognized, invested in and lifted up as an example to other communities. Our inclusion in the Challenge and our continued success validates the hard work, collaboration and innovation of our community partners.”

To create action toward improving health outcomes, The Health Collaborative leverages resources, creates innovative partnerships and non-traditional leadership opportunities to implement and support a number of health improvement efforts. A few of these initiatives include:

  • Health In All Policies Resolution passed by the Caswell County Commissioners signifies their recognition that health is determined by more than what happens at the doctor’s office, and is largely influenced by policies and systems managed by the government sector. As a result, Commissioners review the health implications of policies and resolutions under consideration for enactment.
  • Youth Agriculture and Entrepreneurship Program (YAEP), has engaged more than 60 youth in exploring the local food system, starting community gardens and planning food-based businesses. Using the local food system and social justice as the foundation for the program, YAEP is designed to increase access to healthy eating options, empower youth to become change agents for healthy behaviors in their neighborhoods and provide a summer employment option that builds leadership, entrepreneurial, and workforce development skills for those living in under-resourced communities.
  • Fit Mobile, a partnership between Danville Parks and Recreation, Averett University, the Community Health Worker Initiative, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Healthy Spaces Action Team was created to address common barriers to participating in physical activity opportunities. By taking free exercise and nutrition classes into neighborhoods, Fit Mobile removed the barriers of cost and transportation, while increasing equitable access to opportunities to be physically active. During the spring 2018 pilot, Fit Mobile had 572 total participants spread over more than 180 classes. The 348 youth who participated took more than 280,532 steps, while adults noted better balance, increased mobility and weight loss.
  • Community Health Worker Initiative is a partnership among 12 organizations in the City of Danville, VA; Pittsylvania County, VA and Caswell County, NC that is tasked with increasing our region’s ability to manage chronic diseases. Ten Community Health Workers (CHWs) serve as a link between healthcare, social services, and community members to aid in health management through outreach, community education, advocacy and social support.

“While we are celebrating our success today, we know that there is still work to be done,” said Jardine. “Our efforts are not finished now that the Challenge has ended. Instead we are building off of the momentum created over the past two years to continue this collaborative and community driven approach to building a Dan River Region in which all residents have the opportunity to thrive.”

To learn more about the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge visit: About the Healthiest Cities Challenge