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WASHINGTON — More than 20 million people in communities across the United States have more access to nutritious foods, physical activity, smoke-free environments, and/or clinical preventive services, thanks to a three-year grant funded project known as Partnering4Health.

From 2014 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided five national organizations funding to work with 94 urban, rural and tribal communities for implementing sustainable changes that support healthy communities and lifestyles.

Specifically, the project focused on fighting chronic diseases such as obesity, tobacco use, diabetes and heart disease, which are among the nation’s most costly health conditions.

A new report published by the five national organizations – American Heart Association (AHA), American Planning Association (APA), National WIC Association (NWA), Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE) and the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) – summarizes the innovative changes made by communities to support healthier lifestyles where people live, work, learn and play.

“The outcomes of this initiative are far-reaching. The communities involved have access to environments that improve their well-being now, but also have increased their capacity to undertake additional structural changes to improve health equity and benefit future generations,” said Elaine Auld, CEO of SOPHE.

The report, Partnering4Health®: National Organizations Empowering Communities to Improve Population Health, summarizes the community impacts:

  • Residents of 74 communities now have more access to healthy food and beverage options sold at corner stores, vending machines, mobile food trucks, farmers markets, or by planting new community gardens.
  • Residents of 36 communities have more opportunities for physical activity through the creation of bike- and walker-friendly spaces, strengthening school physical education, adding worksite wellness sites, and/or new shared use agreements that allowed public access to unused facilities, after-hours school gymnasiums or tracks.
  • Those in six communities have more smoke-free parks, housing, or other environments.
  • Mothers of young children in 29 communities can take advantage of breastfeeding-friendly businesses and better links to health care professionals and community resources to promote healthy lifestyles.
  • More than 177 million media impressions reached the public about the community improvements and how to reduce their chronic disease risks.

Specific examples of community improvements, strategies and lessons learned that will help inform other civic groups devoted to chronic disease risk reduction are highlighted.

“The new partnerships formed out of this initiative are living examples of systems change at the local level which serve as a foundation for other communities to emulate,” said the Executive Director of DHPE, Doreleena Sammons Hackett. Twenty-nine of the NWA’s communities worked to improve community-clinical linkages. The local coalitions drew on WIC’s existing work in support of breastfeeding and services to establish strong referral networks; create lactation rooms; make “prescriptions” for non-pharmaceutical interventions; train healthcare providers and community partners on WIC benefits, breastfeeding, and cultural competency; and share tools and resources.

As part of the NWA project, Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District (Texas) started a new farmers market at the local health department/WIC office to increase use of the farmers’ market nutrition program for WIC clients. The project resulted in $16,800 worth of fruits and vegetables in benefits for WIC clients over the age of one, and a 25 percent increase in voucher redemption rates for 2015.

Of APA’s 27 communities that worked to make streets safe, convenient and comfortable for users of all ages and abilities, 25 worked on changes to make the community more walkable or bikeable, three expanded public access to sites such as gymnasiums after school hours,  and two increased physical activity opportunities for employees of local businesses.

To illustrate mobility and access issues that create barriers to walking and biking, one APA project provided 25 community leaders with wheelchairs to use for running errands. Making places wheelchair-friendly also makes them stroller- and walker-friendly. To illustrate barriers related to bicycling, the coalition invited community leaders to ride bikes alongside bicycling advocates.

The AHA project in Beaverton, Oregon, succeeded in getting all 33 elementary schools to include 10 minutes of physical activity during the day.

The Partnering4Health report, a video with community testimonials, an online sustainability course and toolkit, a database with information about the 94 communities involved, infographics and advertising materials are archived on a website at

Funding for this project was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The views expressed in written materials or publications do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

The Directors of Health Promotion and Education (DHPE) is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to build on principles and practices of health promotion and education to strengthen public health capacity in policy and systems change, thereby improving the health of all and achieving health equity.  DHPE, founded in 1946, is legally known as the Association of State and Territorial Directors of Health Promotion and Public Health Education (ASTDHPPHE). DHPE is located at 1030 15th Street NW, #275, Washington, DC 20005. For more information, visit or contact Thometta Cozart at

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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