under-served communityHow do you help make a healthy community even healthier?

Recent research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation suggests that sometimes our zip code can have a bigger impact on our health than our genetic code.

In other words, much of what influences our health happens outside the doctor’s office, in our communities. Community factors, such as safety, access to healthy foods and recreational spaces, and the support of families and social networks, undeniably contribute to our health. Where we are born and raised, plus where we live and work, matter to our health. Yet too many kids are growing up in communities that put barriers to good health in front of them.

The more we understand the connection between our health and our community, the more we can improve it. The GSK IMPACT Grant for Metro Denver is a new 18-month charitable program through which GSK is partnering with a well-established network of non-profit organizations focused on helping a targeted population of disadvantaged youth live healthier lives and contributing to a healthier community. The intent is two-fold: 1) broaden, deepen, and/or build the capacity of the non-profits and 2) support the network in achieving greater collective impact. These grants for health are a key element of the national initiative to examine the barriers and identify opportunities to build healthier communities in the United States. Denver was chosen because while it is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest cities, it does have areas of concern. For example, the rate of childhood obesity has been on the rise lately.

The Youth-Driven Healthy Recreation Centers Collective is the recipient of the GSK IMPACT Grant for Metro Denver. This is a partnership among nine organizations, including GSK, that will work together to build a healthier community in the Denver neighborhoods of Globeville, Elria-Swansea, and Northeast Denver.

The collective is focused on improving the health of disadvantaged youth through a dual approach of healthy eating, active living (HEAL) programming and youth leadership development. Throughout the evidence-informed HEAL programming, 50 neighborhood youth will also be selected to engage in an innovative recreation center project. The youth participants will be mentored by local business executives as they propose changes that will ensure more of their peers access the recreation centers and enter the on-ramp for healthier lives. The most compelling youth-led proposals will be funded and implemented, leaving sensible, sustainable solutions for a healthier community.

The nine organizations in this collective have a common agenda for this 18 month partnership, they have outlined how their activities are mutually reinforcing, they have agreed on shared metrics, and they have committed to continuous communication throughout the process to ensure greater collective impact. Throughout the partnership, LiveWell Colorado is the “backbone organization,” serving as the fiscal agent and facilitating the collaboration. Spark Policy Institute is the evaluation partner, ensuring dynamic learning and course corrections throughout the partnership, and developing the comprehensive final evaluation which will measure the partnerships’ performance against the nine objectives. The members of the collective are:

This work will contribute to improved health outcomes, and it can be replicated in other communities throughout Colorado and across the country, thanks to grant funding.

Adapted from an article from the US GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Website at us.gsk.com