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The 2018 Wellville Gathering

The theme of the 2018 Wellville Gathering was to ask a simple question: What story do we want to tell at the end of the 10-year Wellville project, on December 31, 2024? Our stories will help Wellville demonstrate the value of investing in health for the people and organizations in the Wellville 5 communities, and for the onlookers who set policy, fund health(care) and can follow our examples from outside of Wellville. Ideally, the goals will ultimately include – and achieve! – hard numbers.

Each Wellville community worked on its answer to this question during the Gathering, focusing on just one initiative — just a small portion of the overall story. Over four intensive workshopping sessions, the community teams, their Wellville advisors and our expert guest participants followed an action learning process to advance their chosen initiatives. They asked themselves: What will we achieve? How will we do it? What have we learned? How will we put this to the test?

Muskegon, MI  

Community collaborative working with Wellville: 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County
Wellville coordinator: Jamie Hekker
Backbone organization: 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County, launched by Muskegon Rotary

Over the years, the 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon County team has generated momentum in several key areas: the KnowSmoke Coalition to reduce smoking, its project to improve resilience (Trauma-Informed Care), and the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Woman presenting with a poster board to others
Jamie Hekker presents the story that 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon will tell in 2024

For the Gathering, the 1 in 21 team chose to work on a key initiative that had stalled: the Champions Program, which is meant to engage employers and organizations of Muskegon County in changing practices to foster health among their employees and members. Its long-term goal for 2024 is to tell the story of an engaged community where employers and other institutions have recognized the benefits of a culture of health and equity, both in cost savings for health care and improved productivity of employees, and are actively supporting a variety of relevant programs (insurance benefit design, healthy food availability, and the like).

In the short term, a key first step will be to collaborate with local organizations and employers on a shared value proposition so that they recognize the long-term return for investing time and resources in the Champions Program. This engagement process will also surface a few passionate leaders who can help inspire and recruit others into the fold.

This has now begun. Rachel Fawcett of Lakeshore Fitness Center took up the challenge and encouraged the Champions team to get itself prepared to scale – with phone calls to prospective members (and a database to track progress), a survey to collect input both from employers and from community groups reaching those not yet employed, and ongoing collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and its members. The team is also looking for a chairperson to lead the charge.

The Champions team is working with the understanding that to develop and maintain momentum, it must turn employers and other institutions into change agents by engaging them in the design and implementation of Muskegon’s culture of health.

Underpinning this and all the 1 in 21 initiatives is a revitalized focus on health equity, an issue that the team acknowledged hasn’t received the attention it deserves. During the Gathering, the 1 in 21 team pledged to bring a health equity lens to all its future conversations and initiatives. The challenge, of course, will be to put this pledge into practice in meaningful ways.

Meanwhile, to bring in a broader constituency, the team will do a better job of communicating and celebrating success. Please stand by to hear more this Fall!

Spartanburg, SC

Community collaborative working with Wellville: Spartanburg’s Way to Wellville
Wellville coordinator: Jennifer MacPhail
Backbone organization: Mary Black Foundation

Since the start of the Wellville project, one main areas of focus for the Spartanburg team has been “community pride.” Over the years, as they refined what that means and how to achieve it, the concept has evolved into community engagement: supporting residents – especially of under-served neighborhoods – in achieving greater power and agency. The first major engagement initiative was a neighborhood listening campaign: small, structured, sessions in people’s homes, led by trained resident facilitators, that took place in the city’s seven most distressed neighborhoods.

People taking selfie with body of water in the background
Spartanburg (most of) team selfie at Lake Michigan.

Initially, residents weren’t interested in talking to the organizers of the project, whom they viewed as outsiders – no one knew them and the project didn’t resonate enough to be important in their busy lives. “Poverty is a full-time job,” as Liany Arroyo from the City of Hartford puts it. The organizers retrenched, spending time building trust with neighborhood leaders and reframing the listening campaign as a potential benefit. They learned patience, realizing that this effort can’t happen in their imposed time frame.

In the end, the sessions yielded some proposals and generated some momentum; indeed, just the act of listening is an outcome. That said, the Spartanburg team wasn’t sure about how to take a next step. They team came to the Gathering ready to assess the output from these listening sessions and eager to plan how to make sustained community engagement tangible.

Over the three days, they developed a two-pronged plan:

  1. Deeper listening events. The first round of listening yielded slightly confusing results: All the neighborhoods asked for “better lighting,” but it was unclear if this was a proxy for “feeling safer” or if it simply meant…well, better outdoor lighting in the neighborhood. To resolve this confusion, the team will refocus their efforts on action-oriented listening that asks the “5 Whys,” in order to dig deeper into the rationale behind the issues identified by the community. At the same time, they will try to find creative ways to address the lighting issue the residents already raised. The community engagement team, led by Samantha Campbell, will convene a cross-community engagement event this fall. They’ll invite back those who participated in listening sessions as well as representatives from would-be partners – community and civic agencies, schools, local police, and so on – to foster practical discussions and to build relationships.
  2. Collaborative outreach. There are a number of local entities (education, government, faith organizations, community health institutions) with outreach/community relations staff engaging with the same residents in the same neighborhoods, but without a way to coordinate or share information. The Spartanburg Wellville team will convene those entities on a regular basis. The first step is to build the invitation list – a task they’ve already begun.

More broadly, the team is looking to use some of the same engagement principles informing the listening campaign to other areas of focus as well.

North Hartford, CT

Community collaborative working with Wellville: North Hartford Triple Aim Collaborative
Wellville coordinator: Gina Federico
Backbone organization: United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut (starting July 1, 2018)

During North Hartford’s final presentation at the Gathering, resident liaison Angela Harris said, “If you read the narrative about North Hartford in the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Promise Zone document, you wouldn’t want to live there. Our goal is to flip the script to be more asset-based — to take a diamond in the rough, buff it and make it shine. We need to tell a better story.”

People at a table having a discussion
The North Hartford team working on the Parker Memorial project.

At the center of that rough diamond is the Parker Memorial Community Center. The North Hartford Triple Aim Collaborative (NHTAC) plans to transform this “swim and gym” institution into a community hub where all residents have the tools and opportunity to reach their full potential.

Parker Memorial will perform two functions. First, it will assume the role of a backbone organization, guiding the vision and strategy for community health, brokering relationships among providers and partners, establishing best practices, advocating for policy and sustaining public will, and securing funding for its multi-sector programs and initiatives.

Second, Parker Memorial can offer navigator services, providing residents with direct referrals to local resources. Most resources and services won’t be housed directly in Parker Memorial. The idea is to be a coordinated, seamless source of information for residents and an asset for existing community organizations. This flexible structure will allow Parker Memorial to adjust its programs as the needs of the community fluctuate and change. Generally, the offerings will focus on strengthening protective factors and improving specific health indicators related to asthma, obesity and diabetes.

The North Hartford team received good news after the Gathering: Parker Memorial was selected by HUD as one of 17 EnVision Centers in the nation. While details are still coming, the HUD site notes that the EnVision Centers will provide communities with a centralized hub for support in the following four pillars:  (1) Economic Empowerment, (2) Educational Advancement, (3) Health and Wellness, and (4) Character and Leadership.

More broadly, Parker Memorial will serve as a brick-and-mortar vehicle for one key lesson that came out of the Gathering: that the NHTAC should share the responsibility — and credit — for all the work being done by members of the collaborative, in order to reinforce all the positive change happening in the community and to build momentum within the team and for the public at large. The NHTAC has “collected designations,” as Trinity Health’s Mary Stuart put it, and now has the challenge of making them all work together for the benefit of the community.

Lake County, CA

Community collaborative working with Wellville: Hope Rising
Wellville coordinator: Shelly Mascari
Backbone organization: Hope Rising

The Hope Rising team members came to the Gathering ready to roll up their sleeves to improve Lake County’s health ranking. They came away with two operational objectives and three goals for health outcomes.

Group photo with five people on a deck with water in the background
Some of the Lake County team enjoying Camp Pendalouan.

First, to facilitate action and maintain momentum, the Hope Rising governing board agreed to resolve the scheduling challenges that have slowed action by forming a smaller executive committee. The executive committee will meet every other week and report progress back to the members of the wider board.

Second, to strengthen engagement and expand awareness about Hope Rising, members agreed to collaborate on the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment. They hope to use the finished CHNA as inspiration for a longer-term strategic plan for Hope Rising. The team has also began to improve overall communications, refreshing its website and starting a social media presence.

Beyond these two operational steps, the team identified three goals on health outcomes and some immediate actions to achieve them:

  1. Reduce homelessness by 10%
  • facilitate the development of a countywide housing/homelessness plan
  • activate the housing innovation grant won from Partnership HealthPlan last year
  1. Reduce deaths by overdose by 50%, by 2020
  • support new SafeRX coordinator, Susan Desalvo-Reed, as she develops a vision for next phase of SafeRX
  • facilitate a SafeRX track at the 2018 Innovation Summit in order to maintain momentum and support for the opioid coalition and to increase education and awareness
  1. Improve family resilience
  • assess whether to add a resilience framework with long-term strategies and goals

Clatsop County, OR

Community collaborative working with Wellville: Way to Wellville Clatsop County
Wellville coordinator: Sydney Van Dusen
Backbone organization: CareOregon

By 2024, the Way to Wellville Clatsop County team plans to improve health by reducing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) for all 5,060 kids in area school districts, and by taking action to improve adult resilience.

Four people with one person presenting information
Sydney Van Dusen presented Clatsop County’s plans for a mentorship program.

To these ends, they have plans in the works for a trauma-informed care (TIC) network for children, which was a suggestion that came out of last year’s pre-k feasibility study implemented by Social Finance and the Sorenson Impact Center. The team has already applied for a grant to fund a full-time person to coordinate this network.  They also agreed to develop a mentorship program for resilience; currently, there are very few mentorship programs in the county.

An important part of implementing this plan is access to adequate, sustainable funding…for all its programs (including the resilience work). While the Clatsop team plans to secure funding from Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) for resilience work, they also identified possible funding sources for other programs, including the two area hospital systems, the Oregon Community Foundation and donor organizations such as Meyer Memorial Trust.

During the Gathering workshops, the team acknowledged that they need to include all stakeholders in every phase of the process, in order to give a voice to all and to foster culture change. They also realized that they need to identify and highlight anchor institutions in the county and include them in the collaborative. To this end, they plan to hold a town hall meeting to share their vision and plans.

By the end of the Gathering, the team left with a sense of urgency inspired by a question posed by another attendee: What is the cost of doing nothing? They returned to Clatsop County determined to immediately start implementing their plans, believing that action will energize all the members of the collaborative and generate powerful, sustained momentum.

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