Monday, October 19, 2015

Fulton PICH Program and Community Groups Partnering to Create Healthier Communities

To commemorate Health Education Week, which runs from October 19 to October 23, and its theme of building successful partnerships to more effectively implement sustainable changes in communities, the team from the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) Program would like to share recent examples of the way it is working with community groups to break down silos, establish new relationships, connect people in support of common goals and collaborate.
The Fulton County PICH Program supports initiatives and activities to reduce chronic disease, improve access to healthy nutrition and physical activity, promote tobacco cessation and smoke-free environments, and create walkable and livable communities. But it can’t do it alone. The PICH Program is working in partnership with a coalition of government, school, healthcare, corporate, faith-based and non-profit organizations to address these four areas.

One recent illustration of this collaboration in action was the September 25 presentation on designing healthy communities to encourage physical activity. The event was sponsored by the Fulton County PICH Program, produced in partnership with the Fulton County Healthy Heart Coalition, Fulton Asthma Improvement & Reduction Coalition, the Diabetes Community Action Coalition of Fulton County, the Smoke Free Coalition, the Fulton Interfaith Coalition and Safe Kids, and made possible by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mark Fenton, a recognized authority on community planning and public health, led the workshop for an audience of 32 health policymakers, public agency officials and community coalition partners. The workshop consisted of lively, interactive discussions about effective strategies for planning and implementing easy-to-launch initiatives to create walkable, bikeable and livable communities throughout the County. Fenton spent a lot of time training the participants to stop thinking and working in silos and instead to create inclusive messages and tactics. Throughout the half-day session, the atmosphere was electric as the discussion generated new ideas from participants who reimagined County neighborhoods as walkable, bikeable and livable communities.

The coalition partners, policymakers and agency leaders have taken the ideas back to their respective organizations to develop concrete ideas for transforming communities throughout Fulton County into areas where cars, bikes, pedestrians and transit all safely share the road and residents have easy, walkable access to healthier food options and pleasant outdoor spaces for physical activity.

Three days later, on September 28, some 40 representatives of a diverse group of community organizations attended a PICH-sponsored daylong training presented by the Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE) in developing policies, strategies and interventions to lower the incidence of chronic health problems and to promote physical activity and healthy eating for children, teens, adults, seniors and families in their communities. The public health professionals, policymakers, educators, neighborhood activists and faith-based organization leaders learned how to define social and health problems and to identify like-minded individuals and stakeholder groups who could join them in analyzing problems, developing policy solutions and influencing change.

There’s much work to do in order to make it all a reality, but participants in these events now realize that collaboration will be the key. Said one participant: “We can no long afford to watch other areas of Georgia walk more, eat healthier, and live better. In real-time, in our own communities, we truly want to become a safer, walkable, bike-friendly, healthier eating and overall healthier place to live, work and play. Together, we can do it, and together we will.”

Watch a video about both events here.  

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