Celebrating community collaboration and resilience during National Public Health Week

NPHW 2022

April 21, 2022

From the Twitter chat to a free virtual yoga session, this year’s National Public Health Week events had something for everyone. HCCC grantees had the opportunity to share their ideas on many of the week’s seven daily themes, with an emphasis on equity in local communities. 

The main event was a panel discussion highlighting the week’s Community: Collaboration and Resilience theme. During this event, community members and leaders from Deerfield Beach, Florida, Cumberland County, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Paterson, New Jersey shared how they shift power and change systems to build resilience in their communities.

Panelists highlighted their unique approaches to removing barriers to food security in their communities, such as the use of resident advisory boards, youth leadership and food policy councils.

Mary Celis, director of health initiatives at the United Way of Passaic County, moderated the panel and discussed recent strides Paterson’s resident advisory board made in the food space. The board recently had success in holding local governmental bodies responsible for improving research and resources provided through a state-wide legislation created to support Paterson communities.

“Our advisory board was able to speak passionately [during a] state-wide public forum and give testimony to the fact that their communities needed additional support,” Celis said. “[This caused our] state-wide authority to rethink criteria used around food quality in their research and their methodology…This is a great example of a structural change that needed to happen so that residents are participating and holding governing bodies accountable.” 

Dawn Plummer, executive director of the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, discussed how her team has meaningfully engaged residents through their resident ambassador program to deepen collaboration with the city’s mayor’s office and other local institutions.  

“We are very much about building food democracy,” Plummer said. “We are thinking about how we can get those who are most negatively impacted by the food system to see the decisions that are made.”

While each panelist offered a different approach to shifting power into the hands of their community members, each speaker and community member agreed that a core piece of this process is building trust. 

According to Cumberland farmer Nate Crew, community-led solutions to addressing challenges in the food and health care space are a natural mechanism to building trust in communities. “I see the lack of trust [in] public institutions, but when I'm interacting with residents of Fayetteville [at] the farmers market, I find the exact opposite,” Nate said. “It's beyond financial transactions…It's [about] community building and trust. Trust is just interwoven [and] organic.” 

In a separate NPHW panel led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and APHA, Lauren Bartoszek from the Cincinnati project team delved into the trust-building process for both community members and partner organizations as the assistant director of population health strategies for the Health Collaborative. 

“Trust is built in small increments over a large period of time,” Bartoszek said. “‘What perspective is missing from this conversation?’ is a key question we have asked ourselves through our HCCC project…Be honest, transparent and willing to share information…Eventually, it [will offer] up the opportunity to put the right people at the right table and to build the relationship if it hasn’t been there.” 

This year’s NPHW events truly highlighted that public health is in every community. With the right approaches and players, systems can be changed to create more resilient communities. To see a recording of these rich discussions, visit: https://www.pathlms.com/health/courses/35082. And don’t forget to mark your calendars for next year's NPHW: April 3-9, 2023. 

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