Valuing Health and Community

Andrea Hays

Andrea Hays is being honored as a Champion of Change for helping Americans live healthier lives, reduce disease and contribute to lowering health care costs by focusing communities on public health and prevention.

As a child, I looked forward to visiting my grandparents every weekend because I could walk everywhere with Grandma – to the Church, playground, grocery store, post office and even the library.

As I work on obesity prevention efforts in Evansville, Indiana, I’m reminded of those days where walking was easy and accessible.  Those of us focused on the area of active living often cite the positive health impact of having more walkable and bikeable communities. Yet, we know it adds up to benefits beyond increasing physical activity among our residents. Communities that embrace this notion of physical activity also place a high value on, well, community.

That is, having more people out on the street, interacting and getting to know one another creates a sense of togetherness and inspires innovation in other areas. The increase of nature play spaces, outdoor classrooms, community gardens, and farmers markets has motivated a new way of thinking in our community – one that embraces all of our residents.

These efforts are aligned with a growing evidence base that shows if we create a more supportive community environment that promotes healthy living where we live, learn, work, worship, and play, people will begin to thrive and our neighborhoods will come alive. Most important, people will see improved health outcomes and a higher quality of life.

It is easy to forget that the three leading causes of preventable death in the United States are tobacco use, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity. While these causes are lifestyle related, it is important to note that access and opportunity play a huge role in our residents’ ability to lead a healthy lifestyle.  

The Healthy Communities Partnership of Southwest Indiana (HCP) is a collaborative process catalyzed by the Welborn Baptist Foundation over five years ago.  We also have recently received funding from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund’s Community Transformation Grant.

Created by the Affordable Care Act, the Community Transformation Grant Program focuses on key public health and prevention goals, including tobacco-free living, active living and healthy eating, and clinical and community preventive services.   With Affordable Care Act funding, the Healthy Communities Partnership of Southwest Indiana aims to improve the health of Southwest Indiana residents. 

We are working to impact our region’s health through targeted strategies across the lifespan. These efforts start as early as newborns through the Baby Friendly initiative in two hospitals to utilizing a coaching model that helps low-income and medically underserved older adult patients monitor their chronic conditions at home. In addition to our settings based work, we are helping to increase access to healthy foods across our seven county area.

We can continue to accomplish health improvements through cross-sectoral partnerships that create opportunities to support tobacco-free living, healthy weight, and preventing chronic disease across the lifespan.

Andrea Hays is the Director of the move∙ment Initiative and the Upgrade campaign at the Welborn Baptist Foundation in Evansville, Indiana. These programs promote changes in the community that make healthy living easier for all residents.

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