Our health status is determined by more than a trip to the doctor. Other factors, including where we live and work, our access to healthy, affordable food, and partaking in quality educational opportunities, play a role in a person’s ability to live a long and healthy life. United Ways across the nation understand this and are working with local partners to help their residents become healthier while also making their communities stronger and more vibrant. Through the annual Culture of Health Prize, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes communities that band together to make health a priority for all residents. This year, the United Way of West Central Mississippi and United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg played pivotal roles in helping their communities to win the coveted national prize.
How are United Ways working within their communities to build a thriving Culture of Health?
One way is by being a bridge and providing a safe place for diverse partners to come together, says Michele Connelly, the Executive Director of the United Way of West Central Mississippi. Recognizing that education, financial stability, and health are all integral to improving communities, the United Way in Vicksburg, Mississippi, works with Shape Up Vicksburg, the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce, the school district and other partners to decrease the obesity rate and prepare children to be college and career ready.
Thoughtful collaboration and a commitment to addressing tough topics is another key to creating healthier environments and opportunities for all residents. James Taylor, the CEO of the United Way in Richmond stated that the United Way was a natural partner in the region’s culture of health work. Richmond’s complex history requires an honest and sometimes difficult assessment of systems and policies that have promoted inequity. That’s why United Way leverages local and national research to empower individuals, remove barriers, dismantle broken systems, and give residents clear paths to success.
United Ways play a unique role in activating communities to prioritize health and well-being. According to Michele Connelley, many people thought that health was just physical fitness. But a Culture of Health embraces everything that United Ways already do. We congratulate these two United Ways for their part in this year’s Culture of Health Prize!
How can you build a Culture of Health in your community? Start by learning from this year's Prize winners.