Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN)
NYSDOH has chosen Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN) as one of 25 organizations statewide to help increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity in high need communities. Through DOH’s new Creating Healthy Schools and Communities program, CCHN, Erie2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services (E2CCBOCES), and the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will be working to implement strategies to combat obesity and other chronic diseases in high-need school districts and their surrounding communities. There are six school communities that will be targeted which include: Cassadaga Valley, Dunkirk, Jamestown, Pine Valley, Silver Creek, and Ripley.
This five-year, $1.25 million grant is being led by a public-private consortium of organizations that includes CCHN, E2CCBOCES, and DHHS. Their partners will include the six school districts along with a variety of community agencies including Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dunkirk Local Development Corporation, Jamestown Audubon Society, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, and KEE Concepts Consulting. Collaborations are expected to expand as the initiative matures in each community.
According to Ann Morse Abdella, Executive Director of CCHN, “this is all about alignment of common goals and objectives. The goal of CHSC is to develop schools and their surrounding communities into places where it is easier to practice healthy behaviors; where making the healthy choice is the easy choice.”
Healthy Eating + Physical Activity = Improved Academic Performance
CHSC is a unique opportunity to integrate key health and education initiatives such as the State Health Prevention Agenda and Local Community Health Improvement Plan, with State Education’s efforts around Comprehensive School Health and Wellness. Locally, E2CCBOCES and DHHS are already working on the ICE 8 initiative-Innovate, Educate, Collaborate- to build capacity and implement a coordinated school health model. The “8” in ICE 8 stands for the eight components of comprehensive health and wellness. They are: Health Education; Physical Education; Counseling, Psychological, and Social Services; Health Promotion for Staff; Parent and Community Involvement; Health Services; Healthy School Environment; and Nutrition Services.
The CHSC grant will give a significant boost to starting the process by providing much needed technical and organizational start-up support on three of the eight components in these districts. CHSC will focus on the areas of Physical Education, Nutrition Services, and Family Community Involvement.
Expected Outcomes from the grant include:
• Increased access to healthy affordable foods including:
o increased number of schools with healthy nutrition environments;
o increased number of schools with standards for competitive foods;
o decreased number of schools that allow food marketing to children;
o increased number of schools with comprehensive and strong Local Wellness Policies;
o increased number of small, food retailers selling healthy and affordable foods;
o increased number of food and beverage procurement policies in communities; and
o increased number of community organizations, municipalities and worksites that have adopted healthy food standards.
• Increased access to opportunities for physical activity including:
o Increased number of schools with Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP);
o Increased access to places to walk, bicycle, and wheel; and
o Increased number of local policies that have language supportive of environmental changes that enhance walking, bicycling, and rolling.
CHSC will require working together to mobilize the schools and communities, engage decision-makers and educate policy makers on the need for and health impact of this work. According to Abdella, “buy-in from multiple levels and organizations will be critical to making necessary policy, systems, and environmental change for this to be successful, but we believe the time is right-and the will is there”.
There will be separate but complementary deliverables for the school and community work, and the team will spend time trying to align and support those efforts across sectors. The consortium has adopted a Collective Impact framework to approach this work which requires developing shared agendas, common measures, data feedback, and lots and lots of communications across and within agencies. Residents in the target communities will have opportunities to participate in Community Conversations, team building, and collaborative learning sessions to plan and advance these efforts.
For more information, please contact Shelly Wells, Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Project Coordinator, [email protected], (716) 338-0010, or join us on Facebook Creating Health Places in Chautauqua County.