Before we bid farewell to an eventful year dominated by the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, our HCF associates take a look back at significant events and projects and share their insights about the year 2013.
On day eight of our year in review, HCF Program Officer Adriana Pecina reflects how funders and communities can work together to make the healthy choice, the easy choice.
If you visit Denver, Colo., and drive along I-25, you will likely pass a neighborhood called Westwood. Located in the southwest part of the city, Westwood is one of Denver’s older neighborhoods. It’s a community that has historically experienced some of the highest crime and poverty rates in the metro area.
I had an opportunity this fall to visit the Westwood neighborhood — to see a community in transition. What I learned from my visit to Westwood has far reaching lessons for communities here in my hometown.
As one of HCF’s program officers that lead our Healthy Lifestyles funding, I find myself frequently explaining to potential grantees, partners and others in the community that the goal of our funding is to create community environments that make the healthy choice, the easy choice.
While attending a Grantmakers in Health session in Denver for funders to talk about how to engage communities to create healthy places, I had the opportunity to see what can be achieved when funders and communities work together. It was clear that efforts to further improve policies and environments allowed residents to have access to healthy places.
While in Denver, we visited several communities in which local and national funders have supported efforts to redesign the built environment for improved health and wellness of under-resourced communities.
I had many “takeaways” of how funders can help ensure that community members are fully engaged in these efforts.
- Cookie-cutter approaches don’t work. Every community is unique. Don’t just enter a community and propose a solution. Just because a community may have fallen on hard times, don’t assume that the residents are not proud of where they live. You must work to maintain the identity of the community. Allow them to be who they are and to design and architect what is right for THEIR own community.
- Leadership matters. While money from funders is helpful, if you want to see true healthy community transformation, technical assistance and leadership development is needed.
- Ownership is key. In order to make these efforts sustainable well into the future, the key is to allow residents to develop their own priorities. A successful approach requires buy-in and commitments from the communities you are working to improve.
- Use all voices. Engage all voices, regardless of language barriers.
- Financial and in-kind commitments by residents and businesses are invaluable. It was evident that the residents, businesses and elected officials in the communities had their own resources like space, interpreters, time and expertise that they were willing to invest.
As I travel around Kansas City, I see many communities like the Westwood neighborhood. I look forward to working in 2014 with these communities to build partnerships and identify unique solutions to help make the healthy choice, the easy choice.