Coastal Voices: Health effort needs input

By Clarke Moore June 30, 2011 05:54 pm

An early summer light rain on the North Coast is a time for reflection and contemplation.

A very dedicated group of Del Norte and adjacent tribal lands (DNATL) community folks have been working on improving our communities’ health. This broad, diverse coalition of local people has developed a “health plan” informed by data provided by the California Center for Rural Policy (CCRP) at Humboldt State University, traditional state and federal agency sources,  The California Endowment (TCE) and most importantly, our local DNATL folks.

Together we have determined where to concentrate our efforts over the next 10 years and beyond to assure a healthier DNATL. Together we have developed a process that is fair and accessible to all DNATL residents. Together we have chosen to improve health by going as far “upstream” as possible to prevent unhealthy choices.

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy said that Americans do not undertake challenges because they are easy, but because they are hard; DNATL residents have heard the call and are up to the challenge!

As the sponsor of the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) effort statewide, The California Endowment has begun making investments here and in 13 other sites in California.

Here’s what that means to us.

• Investments are beginning to be made to support the work of people taking on projects to improve health in the outcome areas, in accordance with our local plan.

• There is approximately $1 million yearly to be invested; more is available if the outcomes support it.

• There is no deadline for applications; the process is ongoing

• Some groups have received funding; many groups are in conversation with our program manager, Laura Olson, to determine if the work being done fits within the plan.

• The work will be data-driven and the projects must move the needle in the outcome/results areas. Learning, planning, data collection, raising the profile of problems, improving communication, building leaders and community engagement are the steps used. CCRP will help us ensure that progress is being made.

Criteria for the work is that it be community led, designed to build leadership, develop youth participation and voice, engage new constituencies, ethnicities, all geographies, and policies and systems changes that will have long-term, positive effects on community health.

Here are some of the grants and the work in progress.

• Community Assistance Network to support food policy and the local food environment.

• A fully equipped dental van is being built and will be delivered soon.

• Pre-school enrolling young children for the fall.

• Community gardens are going in.

• Salad bars will be available in all schools.

• A summer youth mapping project that will include leadership, advocacy, organizing and team building. The youth developed “map” will provide perspective on health in neighborhoods throughout DNATL that will be used as a baseline by the BHC collaborative  and to help encourage our young people to  advocate for issues of concern that they identify.

• Learning and capacity building sessions here and throughout the state to explore best and promising practices.

I have been involved in health care here since the early 1970s. My thinking on what “health” is both individually and collectively has changed significantly over the years. It has become apparent to me that individual health is determined primarily by four factors: personal responsibility 40 percent; societal and environmental 30 percent; genetics 20 percent; direct medical intervention 10 percent.

When “health,” both individually and community wide, is viewed in this manner, improving community health involves more than the traditional “medical community.” The Building Healthy Communities initiative allows us to become part of the solution.

The tools we need are being made available to us. Our program officer, Laura Olson, has been involved in our community through her work with the Humboldt Area Foundation for many years and is an excellent bridge for us to TCE. To its credit, TCE has not forced its will upon us in this process. Yes it has guidelines within which we must operate, but it understands that the answers we seek come from within, not without. The table is large and has room for all; if you are not sitting there it is because you do not want to!

I invite you to joins us in building a healthier Del Norte and adjacent tribal lands. Your voice is needed. Contact Amber Talbert, HUB coordinator, at 465-1238 for more information.

Clarke Moore is director of the Del Norte Healthcare District.