April 3, 2020 | Tiffany Neal | Building Bridges to Better Health
As posted on New Jersey Health Initiatives
In February 2020, we held a community conversation in South Bound Brook, one of the towns our “Building Bridges to Better Health” initiative serves. We took the opportunity to share updates about our work in the town. More importantly, we asked the participants to talk in small groups about building a healthier and stronger South Bound Brook.
The residents shared many great ideas, most of which align with the priority areas in our Blueprint for Action which was developed with community input in 2017. We hope these ideas will help the town sustain a Culture of Health beyond our grant funding.
As we discussed sustainability at a recent leadership team meeting, an interesting metaphor came up. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is all over the news, while still realizing the fact that in New Jersey, the flu is still a big health threat. How can we get more attention on the flu when it’s not “on everyone’s radar?’ Influenza comes around every year, so it’s hard for people to maintain a sense of urgency and interest. Along the same lines, how can we get more attention on community health when it’s not “on everyone’s radar?”
Community health and prevention workers often struggle to show their value to the public. A saying in journalism is “if it bleeds, it leads.” How can we get news coverage if our work prevents “bleeding?” We can talk about all of the lives that we’ve improved, but those are abstract to readers.
It can be hard enough for residents to notice changes in their community like the launch of a school-based behavioral health center, the adoption of Complete Streets policy, and a schedule of nutrition workshops linked with farmers’ market vouchers. How can we expect them to notice the impact of these changes like improved mental health, reduced pedestrian injuries, and lower rates of heart disease? We need to revamp our communication efforts to show how community health is important and exciting for every single resident.