A Unique Approach to Healthy Communities

John Urban is being honored as a White House Champion of Change for his leadership and commitment to the ideals of the YMCA.

John Urban

Greater Rochester Health Foundation is honored to be recognized as a Champion of Change, and thanks to the YMCA of Greater Rochester for the nomination for this prestigious award.

The Health Foundation was created in 2006 with a clear mission: to improve the health status of all residents of the Greater Rochester community (nine counties) including people whose unique health care needs have not been met because of race, ethnicity or income. Our definition of health is broad: health is about far more than health care, and health disparities are evident in all areas of health status, particularly in urban and rural areas.

We think of our role as “finding, funding and measuring.” We take a strategic approach to uncovering the community’s most pressing health issues,  invite skilled partners to implement outcome-focused programs to address the problems, and then fund professional evaluators to work with grantees to measure their results. Through this process we have had the privilege of working with many champions.

One of the most important of these local champions is the YMCA of Greater Rochester, focused on reversing childhood obesity in order to increase the number of urban children at a healthy weight. In a four-pronged 10-year strategy,  Be A Healthy Hero 5∙2∙1∙0, pediatricians, schools, child care providers,  families, street teams,  local government and community organizations have supported the cause of eating right and being active. Literally thousands of the area’s “little champions” know the 5∙2∙1∙0 jingle by heart.

Our neighborhood health status improvement initiative supports asset-based, resident-driven efforts to improve the physical, social and economic health of their communities. Neighborhood champions build upon the many strengths of their neighbors, local businesses and organizations to improve the “health” of their community in the way they have defined it. Improving health might include reversing open air drug markets, razing unsafe buildings and repurposing empty lots into community gardens and playgrounds, offering GED classes and providing micro loans for small businesses. No single neighborhood’s approach is like another’s.

Within the medical community, many work to champion the delivery of cost-effective, accessible, high-quality health care. They have developed medical innovations, identified and treated depression, initiated protocols to control hypertension and treat stroke, saved a federally qualified health center through an effective merger, and some, including the YMCA, have implemented evidence-based diabetes prevention programs.

It has been our special good fortune to partner with the YMCA of Greater Rochester since the inception of the Health Foundation.

John Urban is the President and CEO of the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.

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