Building a Healthy Community
Healthy Communities in Louisiana
A Well-Ahead community is one that has created an environment that makes it easy for residents to live a healthy lifestyle. Leaders in a Well-Ahead community work together to create conditions that allow for easy access to things like safe neighborhoods, a quality education, good jobs, healthy foods and healthcare resources.
Did you know your zip code directly impacts your health?
Growing evidence shows that in the U.S., the greatest predictor of one’s life expectancy might be your zip code—the community in which you live, work, learn, pray and play. Take a look at this map of New Orleans, Louisiana to see how life expectancy can vary by up 20 years in neighborhoods right next to each other!
Where you live directly impacts your health, with the lowest life expectancy being in communities with lowest levels of income and education. These are also predominantly minority neighborhoods where the links between race, poverty and health have been reinforced for decades. These communities often lack access to resources that create the opportunity to live well.
You can take the lead to build a Well-Ahead community!
If community leaders, residents and organizations work together, you can create a culture of health where everyone has access to the resources that make living well possible. Building a culture of health means creating a community where all individuals have an equal opportunity to live the healthiest life they can—despite ethnic, geographic, racial, socioeconomic or physical circumstances.
Since health is about much more than not being sick, it’s important to consider the complex factors contributing to the overall wellbeing of the residents in your community. To implement effective health interventions, establish a diverse representation of community residents and organizations to partner together and intentionally plan and implement evidence-based practices. These multi-sectoral partnerships expand resources, knowledge, expertise and support available to address key factors that influence health.
And Well-Ahead is here to help you address poor health outcomes to build a healthy community! You can get started by completing this form to be connected to a Healthy Community Coach.
Well-Ahead Communities Roadmap
Using the Well-Ahead Communities Roadmap, any community can work together to make healthy living possible for their residents.
Get started by building a coordinated network of community members and community organizations representing diverse sectors to mobilize action for building your Well-Ahead community. We call these networks healthy community coalitions.
Healthy community coalitions enable community members to work together in a way that is supported by evidence and best practices to create policy, systems and environmental changes that reduce barriers to health and ensure all residents have an opportunity to thrive.
The Roadmap to Well-Ahead Communities is not one-size-fits all. It is designed to allow any community to pick it up and customize the process to meet their unique needs. The most important part of the roadmap is for communities to be met with support where they are in the process of improving health outcomes. The roadmap is designed to build partner organizations’ and community members’ readiness and capacity to execute this work. It builds sustainability in the partnership and works in the best interest of the community.
The roadmap works with communities on:
- Multi-sectoral coalition development
- Engaging elected officials, stakeholders and the community
- Assessing their needs and resources
- Developing strategic plans for effective work
- Utilizing available data for coalition priorities for policy, system and environmental changes
- Selecting evidence-based initiatives to address coalition priorities
- Connecting to resources for implementation of healthy community activities
- Evaluating coalition activities and partnerships
- Creating a sustainability plan for communities
Step 1: Build a Team
Establishing an organizational structure for multi-sector partnership development lays the foundation for sustainable and innovative solutions to meet the community’s needs to improve health outcomes. It is important to identify lead organizations in the community that want to support this work, as well as key stakeholders that can move the needle forward. Building a team allows for strong partnerships to lead the way and ensure the coalition and community work stays aligned with the goals and objectives that will be determined.
To build your team, focus on the following:
- Identify your lead organizations
- Choose an organizational structure
- Form a Leadership Committee
- Engage influencers
- Establish a Parish or Mayor’s Wellness Council
- Engage community members to expand to a Community Coalition
Utilize the resources below to gain a deeper understanding of effective team building.
- Coalition Works Coalition Start Up, Planning & Building Tools: Materials on building and sustaining coalitions.
- Community Toolbox Creating and Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships: Guidance for creating a partnership among different organizations to address a common goal.
- Community Toolbox Developing an Organizational Structure for the Initiative: Guidance on developing a structure within your organization.
- MAPP Organizing and Engaging Partners: Mobilizing through Action for Planning and Partnerships. Guidance on organizing the planning process and developing the planning partnership.
- Prevention Institute Eight Steps to Effective Coalition Building: Guide on developing and maintaining effective coalitions.
- RWJ Take Action: Guidance for setting plans in motion and resources for sustaining successful partnerships.
Step 2: Assess Needs and Resources
Building an effective coalition begins by assessing community needs to improve health outcomes, lower chronic disease and improve the quality of life for all residents. Assessing your community’s strengths, weaknesses, resources and needs provide the coalition with data and input to make informed decisions about priorities. Knowing where your community stands will assist in planning the desired outcomes.
Data for your community can be found in numerous resources. Below are examples of where data can be obtained as well as data collection strategies.
- Local non-profit hospitals’ Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) or Implementation Plans (IP)
- Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) County Health Rankings (CHR)
- Asset Mapping or Resource Inventory
- Louisiana State Health Assessment (SHA) or Improvement Plan (SHIP)
- Community Forum
- America’s Health Rankings
- Louisiana Health Report Card
While assessing your community’s needs and resources, it is important to ensure community members feel heard. Data plays a major role in identifying the health needs of the community; however, felt needs are just as important. Felt needs are what the community members see and feel are the main priorities. This work can only be successful by aligning the data with the felt needs of the community.
In addition to identifying community needs, identifying community resources is also important. Resources within the community have a direct impact on health outcomes. It is imperative that community members have access to quality resources within their community. A community member should not have to travel outside of their community for quality healthcare, transportation, or services. Assessing the community needs will help them see what resources exist within their community and what resources are still needed.
- America Health Rankings for Louisiana: In-depth reports of Louisiana’s health outcomes.
- LHCC Data, Reports and Resources: Resources, ranging from data sources to helpful frameworks, to help coalitions make real change within communities.
- CDC Community Health Needs Assessments & Improvement Plans: Community Health Needs Assessment identifies key health needs and issues through systematic, comprehensive data collection and analysis. Community Health Improvement Plan is a long-term, systematic effort to address public health problems based on the results of community health assessment.
- CDC Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) Tool: Data collection tool and planning resource for community members
- Community Toolbox Assessing Community Needs and Resources: Guidance for conducting assessments of community needs and resources
- LDH State Health Assessment (SHA) and State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP): Digital tool that shows health inequities in Louisiana with regard to health outcomes and the determinants of health.
- LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities-Asset Mapping-Community Forums: Addressing the nutrition and physical activity environments in Louisiana through a systemic, community-driven approach to reducing obesity.
- MAPP Collecting & Analyzing Data: Guidance on collecting and analyzing data to improve community health
- RWJ County Health Rankings Parish/State Health Ranking Data: Rankings that provide a look of how health is influenced by where we learn, work, and play.
- U.S. Office of Health & Human Services Healthy People 2030-Data: Provides access to more than 80 data systems to monitor progress toward achieving objective targets over the course of the decade. Sources include, but are not limited to, the National Health Interview Survey and the State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation System
Step 3: Determine Priority Areas
Determining priority areas includes analyzing the gathered data from multiple community, regional, state and national resources for the purpose of choosing three to five areas to focus partnership efforts. While determining where efforts should be focused, take into consideration the community’s social determinants of health, health equity and the incorporation of the residents’ felt needs. It is important to align the priority areas with those of key stakeholders and partners in the community. Bringing those partners to the table will provide knowledge of specific resources to utilize, barriers to overcome and in turn you will receive buy-in from those leaders.
Here are a few examples of priority areas:
- Healthy Eating
- Childhood Obesity
- Behavioral and Mental Health
- Tobacco Prevention and Cessation
The CDC defines social determinants of health as the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.” Below are a few examples of social determinates of health.
- Access to social and economic opportunities
- Access to affordable housing and healthy food
- Access to quality healthcare
- The resources and support available in our neighborhoods and communities
- The safety of our neighborhoods
- The quality of our education
- The cleanliness of our water, food and air
- CDC Understanding & Advancing Health Equity to Preventing Chronic Disease: Evidence based strategies on how to maximize the effects of policy, systems, and environmental improvement strategies, with the goal of reducing health disparities and advancing health equity.
- Community Toolbox Addressing Social Determinates of Health In Your Community: Guidance on how to address social determinants of health in your community initiatives.
- Community Toolbox Criteria and Processes to Set Priorities: Guidance on how to establish criteria for determining priorities in community improvement projects.
- Community Toolbox Rating Community Goals: Guidance on rating community goals and discovering what goals would best serve the community.
- MAPP Identifying & Prioritizing Strategic Issues: Guidance on developing a list of the most important issues facing a community .
- NACCHO Visioning: Guidance on creating a collaborative process that leads to a shared community vision and common values to ensure selected policies and programs are adopted and implemented so that everyone in the community has a fair and just opportunity for good health.
- RWJ Act On What’s Important: Ensure that selected policies and programs are adopted and implemented so that everyone in the community has a fair and just opportunity for good health.
Step 4: Form Focus Groups
Focus groups consist of coalition members and community leaders who are collaboratively working to implement specific evidence-based initiatives focused within the priority areas to improve health outcomes. Passionate champions or organizations are identified to lead each focus group.
Leaders can be recruited from an organization who has ongoing efforts in this area or can be a community champion who is passionate about a specific area and is willing to commit time and energy to the group. Coordinating with existing work often empowers these efforts along with broadening the coalition’s reach. Leaders oversee the direction of projects, provide guidance to project leaders and ensure the group’s annual action plan aligns with the strategic plan of the coalition.
To form a focus group, here are the key steps to include:
- Identify at least one champion to lead each group
- Encourage key organizations to join a focus group
- Identify roles and responsibilities for leaders and members
- Roll existing coalition members into groups of their choice
- Ensure community members are participating in groups
- Community Toolbox Developing Multisector Task Force or Action Committees: Develop multi-sector task forces or action committees to focus on specific community issues and efficiently take action on that issue.
- MAPP Organizing and Engaging Partners: Guidance on organizing the planning process and developing the planning partnership.
- RWJ Power of Community Member Partners: Guide on what community members can do to help build healthy communities.
- RWJ Team Blueprint: Questionnaire to ask team members of organization .
- RWJ Who to Partner With & Roles of Partners: Guidance on connecting with new partners to make a lasting impact on your community
Step 5: Develop a Strategic Plan
Strategic planning is crucial in building healthy communities. Intentional strategic planning can help the coalition reach its priority goals and objectives by moving from assessment to action.
Multi-Year Strategic Plan
A strategic plan is used to evaluate long term goals and the reach the coalition’s initiatives have in the community. These plans are overarching, three- to five-year plans.
To create an effective long term strategic plan, you need:
- Determined priority areas
- Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (SMART) objectives
- Vision for each focus group
- Focus group leaders
- Impact tracker for each year
Annual Action Plan
The annual action plan allows focus groups to plan specific initiatives to reach the goals for the strategic plan. Annual action planning allows the coalition and focus groups to evaluate on an annual basis and determine what projects they want to initiate in the community. Strategic planning will keep the coalition accountable and successful.
To create an effective annual action plan, you need:
- Policy, Systems and Environmental change strategies
- Objective leads
- SMART project objectives
- Action items
- Person(s) responsible
- Progress notes
- Evaluation method for each year
For more detailed information, please review the key definitions and resources.
Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) changes modify the environment to make healthy choices practical and available to all community members. By changing laws and shaping physical landscapes, a big impact can be made with little time and resources. By changing policies, systems or environments, communities can help tackle health issues like obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases.
- Policy change interventions create or amend laws, ordinances, resolutions, mandates regulations or rules. Governmental bodies (federal, state, local levels), school districts, healthcare organizations and worksites all make policy changes.
- Systems change interventions impact all elements of an organization, institution or system. It would result in new activities reaching large proportions of people the organization serves. Often systems change focuses on changing infrastructure within a school, park, worksite or health setting. Systems and policy change often work hand-in-hand.
- Environmental change interventions involve physical or material changes to the economic, social or physical environment. It can be as simple as installing bicycle signage on established bike routes, or as complex as sidewalk or bike lane installation and pedestrian friendly intersections.
SMART objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. To measure success, this method of writing objectives allows the focus group to identify exactly what will be done for their objective. It is important to have measurable objectives to show progress through the years in regards to health indicators that are being targeted through the healthy community coalition.
- Specific: What is the specific task? Objective clearly states what will be done and who will do it.
- Measurable: What are the standards or parameters? Objective includes how the action will be measured. Measuring your objectives helps you determine if you are making progress. It keeps you on track and on schedule.
- Achievable: Is the task feasible? Objective should be realistic given the realities faced in the community. Setting reasonable objectives helps set the project up for success.
- Realistic: Are sufficient resources available? A realistic objective should fit the purpose of the grant, the culture and structure of the community, and address the vision of the project.
- Time-bound: What are the start and end dates? Every objective has a specific timeline for completion.
- Well-Ahead Communities Strategic Plan and Annual Action Plan Templates: To request the Well-Ahead Communities Strategic Plan and Annual Action Plan templates, along with their guiding documents, please email email@example.com.
- Action 4 Change PSE Change: Resources to coalitions and communities with improving through PSE changes.
- CCNP What is PSE Change: A resource guide to PSE changes. This guide is to provide models and tools to help assist with planning and implementing PSE agenda
- CDC Active Communities Tool (ACT): An Action Planning Guide: Guide to help cross-sector teams create an action plan for improving community built environments that promote physical activity consistent with their community context.
- CDC Examples of PSE Changes: Strategy examples of PSE changes.
- CDC Proven Strategies for Obesity and Physical Activity: List of strategies that support healthy eating, physical activity, and breastfeeding in child care, health care, school, worksite, and community-wide settings.
- Community Toolbox Developing Interventions: Toolkit for developing core components of a community intervention and adapting them to fit the context.
- MAPP Developing Goals, Strategies & Action Plans: Guidance on identifying broad strategies for addressing issues and achieving goals related to the community’s vision
- RWJ Developing a Strategy to Take Action: This guide focuses on promoting policy, systems, and environmental changes to improve community health for the long term.
Step 6: Take Action
At the heart of any successful healthy community movement is implementing evidence-based practices utilizing the data collected. Engaging passionate and skilled champions, community members, and prominent leaders is essential to move focus group efforts to success. Community members and organizations working together with a shared vision and commitment to improve the health of their community yields significantly more impactful results than working in silos. Aligning with local organizations’ efforts will enhance the coalition’s efforts. Community members and organizations who are directly impacted by the project objectives will provide sustainability and commitment.
Implementing Action Plans
To get the focus group projects engaged in the community:
- Implement and carry out action plan steps
- Document the process and assign roles
- Evaluate the process along the way
- Schedule regular meetings to continue moving the project steps forward
- Continue to recruit others to join the project
- Community Toolbox Applying for Grants: Guidance on preparing a successful grant proposal.
- Community Toolbox Encouraging Involvement in Community Work: Developing a plan for increasing participation in community action.
- Community Toolbox Increasing Participation & Membership: Guidance for increasing participation and engaging stakeholders in change efforts.
- Community Toolbox Influencing Policy Development: Guidance for creating policy change in organizations and communities.
- NIH Grant Writing Tips: Resources for writing grants and funding information.
- The Rapides Foundation Grant Writing Webinars: Webinars on the grant writing process.
- RWJ Funding Guide: Securing Additional Resources for Community Health Improvement: Resources for identifying and accessing funding for your community health initiative.
- Rural Health Information Hub Characteristics of a Successful Program: Key features of what helps make a successful rural health programs.
Step 7: Evaluate Actions
Evaluation is a tool for measuring a coalition’s impact and provides information on where to make improvements. Evaluation is vital to ensuring goals and objectives are achieved with results that create sustainability by linking investments to improvements in health outcomes.
Evaluating and measuring progress helps to ensure all partners are working toward common goals and are on track to meeting the set objectives. Measures for evaluation should be incorporated into each focus group’s annual action plan for collecting and analyzing data to measure accomplishments of short and long term goals, making it an integral component for success.
Data Collection Methods
These data collection methods and measurement tools can be utilized for yearly evaluations:
- Surveys or interviews
- Assessment community forums
- Success stories
- Data on number of activities, events, partners, participants
- CDC Evaluation Planning: What Is It and How Do You Do It?: Guidance on evaluating your healthy communities program.
- CDC Evaluation Workbooks & Tools: Documents, workbooks and tools on evaluation.
- Community Toolbox Evaluate the Initiative: Toolkit for developing an evaluation of a community program or initiative.
- RWJ Evaluate Actions: Guide on discovering whether strategies are working as intended in order to focus efforts efficiently and effectively.
- RWJ Evaluation Plan Template: Template on creating a plan to evaluate your program.
Step 8: Sustain Momentum
Sustainability focuses on creating a lasting impact by creating and building momentum to maintain community changes that continuously improve health outcomes and reduce barriers to good health for all residents. Planning for sustainability starts in the early building phase and progressively strengthens as the coalition moves forward. Key factors to sustainability include focusing on community ownership, engaging elected officials, having a solid foundation for an organizational structure, obtaining funding opportunities and aligning partner organizations’ strategies. Sustainability planning increases long-term strategies for PSE changes making it easier for residents to make healthier choices.
Building sustainability will look different to each coalition. According to the CDC’s Sustainability Guide for Healthy Communities, there are core approaches and complimentary approaches to establishing sustainability for success.
- Core Approaches
- Coalitions and Partnerships
- Policy for Sustainable Change in Systems and Environments
- Complimentary Approaches
- Establishing a Community Home
- Building Coalition Member’s Skills
- Social Marketing
- Communication Strategies
- CDC A Sustainability Guide for Healthy Communities: Guide on creating sustainability within your healthy community.
- Community Toolbox Creating and Maintaining Coalitions and Partnerships: Guidance for creating a partnership among different organizations to address a common goal.
- Community Toolbox Sustaining the Work or Initiative: Toolkit for using different tactics to sustain your organization or community initiative.
- MAPP Sustaining Action: Guidance on sustaining the process of your healthy community and continuing implementation over time.
- Program Sustainability Assessment Tool: Online assessment tool that rates the sustainability capacity of your program.
- RWJ Sustaining Planning Guide: This guide helps public and community health professionals develop a sustainability plan and learn key sustainability approaches.
- RWJ Sustaining the Initiative: This guide provides information on how to sustain your work within your healthy community.
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