(TriceEdneyWire.com) - Diseases resulting from tobacco use,
obesity, and diabetes; plus heart disease and stroke. These are some of the
leading causes of death among African-Americans, according to the U. S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The racial disparities are vast between Blacks and Whites
when comparing the prevalence of these diseases and the death rates. Closing
the gap has been difficult. But, over the past three years, the CDC has funded
and facilitated the activities of five community-based organizations aimed to
reduce death from these conditions.
The initiative, titled "Partnering4Health", has
not only shown success in preventing death, but provided new insight into
community activities that significantly impact health outcomes, according to
the Executive Summary of a recently released "white paper" on the
results of the initiative.
"From 2014 to 2017, CDC provided five national
organizations a total of $30 million to work with local communities and build
their capacity for implementing sustainable changes that support healthy
communities and lifestyles," the report describes. "The overall goal
of CDC's funding was to implement, evaluate, and disseminate evidence- and
practice-based community health activities that promote health equity."
In a nutshell, the CDC's Division of Community Health
selected three national organizations to work with their existing regional or
local affiliates, chapters, or members. The three organizations were the
American Heart Association (AHA), American Planning Association (APA), and the
National WIC Association (NWA). Those three organizations "provided 97
funding awards to 94 communities and their cohorts." The additional two
national organizations funded were the Directors of Health Promotion and
Education (DHPE) and the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), both of
which provided training, communication support, and technical assistance to the
"The funding supported the communities' work toward
[policy, systems and environmental] changes that would increase access to
smoke-free environments, healthier foods and beverages, physical activity
opportunities, as well as overall chronic disease prevention, risk reduction,
and management initiatives," the Executive Summary states.
The three-year-initiative yielded the following successes,
the report states:
* A 5 percent reduction in the rate of death and disability
due to tobacco use
* A 3 percent reduction in the prevalence of obesity
* And a 3 percent reduction in the rates of death and
disability due to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
The community-based strategies largely involved creative
ways to communicate and increase awareness about tobacco use, poor nutrition,
physical inactivity, and lack of access to chronic disease prevention, risk
reduction, or management. Through the use of their newsletters, websites, email
blasts, conferences, forums, and existing publications, they reached their
members, chapters/affiliates, partners, stakeholders, decision makers and other
audiences. They also distributed CDC media messages and public service
announcements to key audiences.
The mission of reversing negative behaviors largely through
health education and awareness was daunting because of the prevalence of the
"Health risk behaviors cause much of the chronic
diseases prevalent in our society today. Tobacco use, the lack of physical
activity, and poor nutrition are three behaviors that can lead to cancer,
cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, says Doreleena Sammons Hackett,
executive director of DHPE. "These unhealthy behaviors can be corrected,
once started. But more importantly they are preventable. Obesity is one of the
most serious health concerns as it can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes,
arthritis and certain cancers."
According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults (36%),
or about 84 million people, were obese. That includes about one in six youths
(17%) aged 2 to 19 years.
Health experts have also acknowledged that the lack of
walkable space and safe streets/neighborhoods also contribute to these
conditions as well as the lack of affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. The
availability of tobacco and alcohol in resource-poor communities where fast
food chains are the cheapest and quickest option for meals compound the issue.
The report recommends that making a few changes in society
and in personal lives can make a difference.
"The 94 funded communities made remarkable strides in
improving access to healthier opportunities where people live, work, and
play," the report states. It also outlined the following detailed results:
* More than 16 million people in communities throughout the
United States now have more access to nutritious foods, physical activity,
smoke-free environments, and/or clinical preventive services.
* Residents of 74 communities now have more access to
healthy food and beverage options sold at corner stores, vending machines,
mobile food trucks, farmers markets, or by planting new community gardens.
* More farmers markets and other sources of fresh produce in
those communities now accept food stamps and WIC vouchers, making healthy food
more available and affordable to those with low incomes.
* Residents of 36 communities have more opportunities for
physical activity through the creation of bike- and walker-friendly spaces,
strengthening of school physical education, addition of worksite wellness
sites, and/or new shared use agreements that allowed the public access to
unused facilities such as after-hours school gymnasiums or tracks.
* People in six communities have more smoke-free parks,
housing, or other environments.
* Mothers of young children in 29 communities can take
advantage of breastfeeding-friendly environments and better links to health
care professionals and community resources that promote healthy
The initiative aimed to impact chronic diseases in areas
where they are most debilitating, where they are diagnosed later, and where the
diseases are "associated with worse outcomes in racial/ethnic minorities
and low-income individuals, which affects the health of communities
Overall, the initiative was deemed to have been a major
"True to its name, the Partnering4Health project showed
that a model of supporting healthier communities by working with and through
national organizations is a viable way to leverage resources and build capacity
at both the local and national levels," the white paper concludes.
"After this promising start, it has great future potential for reaching
even more communities."
The results of the initiative not only has a national
impact, but the benefits can be felt worldwide.
"The cost of chronic diseases in the US and the world
far outweigh the cost of prevention," says Hackett, DHPE executive
director. "Promoting physical activity in our most vulnerable populations,
the very young and the very old, can lead to longer healthier lives.
Involving the community in healthy endeavors promotes unity
while improving health. Community gardens, for example, can be started in
schools, senior centers, vacant lots, donated land, window boxes, etc. by
almost anyone. This can occur in urban and rural areas around the world."
Hackett concludes, "Because the United States is
emulated in the rest of the world, changing our habits and behaviors towards
good health can make positive changes in the rest of the World."
Now that the three-year initiative has ended, the challenge
will now be to sustain the results and continue to spread the education. The
information is still available for use.
"To ensure that community agencies, faith-based
organizations and health advocates interested in improving the health of their
communities have access to the resources from the Partnering4Health initiative,
the White Paper and other resources, such as an online course of sustainability
of community health efforts have been posted to a new website - www.Partnering4Health.org,"
said Thometta Cozart, DHPE's Partnering4Health communications manager.
Partnering4Health.org actually logs the lessons learned from
the community health project and makes them available to the general public.
Organizers hope the website - which includes snapshots of the projects, an
online training course, an inspiring video story, and loads of resources and
materials - will give communities tools in the future to continue to build and
nurture healthier communities and lifestyle.
"The bottom line is that people need healthier choices
where they live, work and play. And when you get the right people at the table
and connect them partners and organizations with similar goals, you can do some
amazing things," says Cheryl Welbeck, project director of DHPE's
The training course has benefits beyond health. It will also
impart valuable lessons on ways to strengthen coalitions for any worthy cause,
says LaQueisa Haynes-Smith, training and e-learning consultant.
Haynes-Smith concludes, "Those who complete the course
will gain valuable insight on enhancing the sustainability of coalitions. They
will also be able to leverage the lessons learned and shared by
Partnering4Health communities from interviews that identify a range of
suggested sustainability approaches."