The Foundation’s “be well Health & Wellness Initiative” is promoting a healthier community …
“We should all be able to get the care we need to stay healthy,” said Alisha Brown, director of the initiative at the Foundation.
“Be well” is a ground-breaking, grassroots movement of area neighborhoods coming together to take charge of their health and wellness.
“Block captains are at the heart of the program. They’re everyday residents from the neighborhoods who are formally trained to discuss health challenges with their families, friends and neighbors,” Brown said. “They also connect others with medical resources and involve them in advocacy efforts to ensure they have the necessary tools to lead healthier lifestyles.”
The initiative now has 27 captains with an initial plan for 35, which will increase as the program grows.
“Decisions about our health are too important to be left to politicians and insurance companies. It’s absolutely necessary that we understand what health reform means for us, our families and how to voice our support and concerns for those changes taking place,” she said.
“Be well” is looking for additional block captains to volunteer for a few hours every week. The captains will receive a free, 12-week health training and $50 monthly stipend.
“Without the block captains, this program wouldn’t exist,” Brown said. “We operate around relationships and the ability to reach and engage the community.
“The planning for ‘be well’ began in 2003, but our 10-year Community Action Plan was just completed last year,” she said. “We wanted to make certain that we took the time to capture as many ideas from the community as we possibly could to create an effective Community Action Plan that residents would own and implement. The residents are the people who can create effective solutions to address health challenges.”
In 2008, the Foundation, in partnership with the University of Colorado, completed a community study titled “Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart” to establish a formal baseline for the state of health in the initiative’s focal area of Central Park and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Brown said the study serves as the groundwork from which ‘be well’ will monitor its progress along with measuring the communities’ engagement and ability to advocate for the necessary resources to support healthy neighborhoods.
“We found that there were elevated risk factors for several chronic illnesses among many of the residents in our neighborhoods as well as a significant number of people who were under- and uninsured,” she said.
“‘Be well’ was created to increase the access and usage of preventative care services, reducing the spread of chronic disease through grassroots engagement in the advancement of health programs, policies and research. This September will mark the first year since the ‘be well’ Community Action Plan was implemented.
“The initiative is almost solely grant-funded, and the action plan established eight community goals that will be carried out through 2015,” Brown said. “Right now, we’re focused on connecting people to a medical home … or primary care provider and encouraging healthy eating and active living.”
The initiative’s other goals range from establishing program leaders to policy advocacy and data collection.
“‘Be well’ is now in Central Park, Northwest Aurora, East Montclair, greater Park Hill and Northeast Park Hill.
“We’ve always focused on Central Park, but we also wanted to include neighborhoods directly adjacent to Central Park to create a more seamless connection with the surrounding neighborhoods,” Brown said, adding that the initiative will eventually expand to Montbello and Commerce City.
“That would basically complete the circle around Central Park,” she said. “But with ‘be well,’ we are creating a model that we can be duplicated across our state and nation.”
“Getting the care we need isn’t too much to ask. Working together, we can ensure that we reach that goal,” Brown said. “In the end, we think that all people should be able to get the care they need when they need it.”
Learn More: The “be well Health & Wellness Initiative” is online at BeWellConnect.org.