Originally published by CVS Health on May 29, 2020
Each month, we’ll bring you an on-the-ground view of communities across the country and their local leaders, visionaries and volunteers. We’ll take an honest look at the problems they face and the innovative solutions they’ve found to address them — and we’ll spread their good ideas to other places with the same challenges.
Atlanta’s Westside has a long history of civil rights activism. The neighborhood was home to leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Julian Bond. CVS Health is working alongside the staff at the Good Samaritan Health Center to provide free COVID-19 testing to those who need it.
Join us on the journey and share these stories with your communities. Do you know of a great program that improves health in your community? Let us know!
Welcome to Healthy Communities News — where we highlight communities that are finding innovative solutions to solve local health challenges. Our first episode features communities battling two common and persistent problems: food deserts and heart disease. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the East End Pop Up Market gives residents easy access to fresh food for the first time in four decades. In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, church leaders are mixing faith with fitness to stem the tide of heart disease and diabetes in their congregations.
As the economy struggles and poverty rises in Bridgeport, manufacturing jobs are not the only thing leaving town: Residents have had to go farther and farther to find fresh food. But a group of local businesspeople is looking to reverse that trend. They’re opening the new East End Pop-Up Market, which will offer not only fresh food, but also job training and wellness workshops. It’s a solution that can be a model for food deserts across the country.
Small businesses can revitalize neighborhoods – so the Bridgeport OIC is lending a hand to local entrepreneurs. We talk to Jeff Nelson of Seeding Knowledge, a start-up that plants and maintains gardens and sells produce. He’s expanding his services to the East End Pop-Up Market, where he’ll offer not only fruits and vegetables, but cooking classes and gardening instruction.
Faith leaders, county health officials, the local health system and community groups have proven that it takes a village to address local health issues. The Village HeartBEAT program created a fitness challenge in local congregations. The goal? To help residents battling heart disease and diabetes. The program uses exercise, nutrition and community gardens to help raise the spirits and lower the weight of participants.
Local people with local solutions — that’s what we’re all about at Healthy Communities News. In this episode, our host, Hilary Russo, travels to Virginia and North Carolina to check out two communities taking creative approaches to address opioid use disorder. We’ll hear about these innovative solutions from the folks on the ground putting them into action and get a glimpse into recovery from Wanda Jenkins, who is using her experience with opioid use disorder to help others.
In this episode’s podcast, we meet Gina Musa, who advocates passionately for community members in rural North Carolina struggling with opioid use disorder. A former sex worker, Gina draws on her own experience with addiction and recovery to connect people with much-needed resources and support. Today, she is a Linkage to Care Coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a job funded by an Aetna Foundation grant.
The number one killer of women is cardiovascular disease. This stark statistic is why the American Heart Association’s national “Go Red for Women” movement is so important. Healthy Communities News was on hand at their annual star-studded Red Dress Collection fashion show in New York City, where we got the opportunity to sit down with four heart disease and stroke survivors for a roundtable discussion. Hear their stories of recovery and hope — and why we need to talk about women’s heart health.
You can be young, look and feel healthy and still be at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Surprised? Healthy Communities News spoke with Dr. Mosca, a volunteer medical expert with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement, to get a better of understanding of women’s heart health. We also sat down with Jenny Petz and Nicole Murray, two of the inspiring heart disease and stroke survivors chosen for Go Red for Women’s 2020 class of Real Women to hear their powerful stories of survival and recovery.
Much like the neighborhood for which it is named, the Live Healthy Little Havana program is a mix of many different elements. It’s a community-led initiative, a partnership with the government, a collaboration with health organizations and an effort to improve resident/police relations — all rolled into one.
To really know what a community needs, you have to live there. Talk with your neighbors over the back fence. See the issues with your own eyes. That’s what makes the Live Healthy Little Havana program a success.
Neighborhood residents, working as community liaisons, are at the heart of the work to improve life for those in the community. And everyone’s got a seat at the table, from government representatives to health workers to lifelong residents. It’s a model that’s driving change — and one that other communities can replicate.
Live Healthy Little Havana participants are working on multiple fronts toward a single goal — to improve life for the residents of this storied community. We showed up at one of their events to hear about how it’s working — and watched as kids from the neighborhood vied to be the first to get the local police commander into the dunk tank.
Not all heroes wear capes. Some monitor blood pressure in barbershops. Some fight opioid misuse and addiction in the streets. And some provide training to help their neighbors find meaningful work. At Healthy Communities News, we talk to folks who are improving health in towns and cities across the country. Here’s a sampling of the inspiring stories we were privileged to tell this year. We look forward to introducing you to even more local heroes in 2020!
Workforce training that takes a single mom of five from homeless to hopeful in Cleveland. Students debating how to go tobacco-free on a Philadelphia campus. These are two of the exciting stories we’ve covered this past year on our Healthy Communities News podcast. And now you can sample them all on our year-end episode. Whether it’s been about faith leaders joining forces with their congregants to shed weight, or a former sex worker who draws upon her own hard-earned experience with opioids to help others struggling with addiction and recovery, we’ve gone around the country to shine a light on people and programs who are bringing change to their communities. We hope they will inspire you, and we look forward to bringing you more stories of hope this coming year.
Healthy Communities News spotlights local people with local solutions to health challenges in their communities. In Louisville, Kentucky, the shadow of segregation and the city’s past reluctance to invest in a historically black community have left many residents distrustful of government. But now, a group of longtime residents are driving efforts to help revitalize their neighborhood — and they’re doing it in partnership with the government. Together, they are creating programs like the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative — which, among other things, helps local kids learn about and experience nature. Because many local families don’t have easy access to parks or forests, the initiative brings nature to the children with a project called ECHO — Engaging Children in the Outdoors. We visited Louisville to learn more.
People in underserved communities often have trouble getting the job skills they need to find stable employment. That’s why CVS Health launched the Workforce Innovation and Talent Center in Cleveland. The Center provides hands-on training and other resources – like transportation, childcare and housing – to help people find meaningful employment in the health care industry. By helping keep people financially healthy, CVS Health is also helping to build healthier communities across the country.
In this episode’s podcast, we meet Carrie Robinson, who is a 28-year-old single mom living outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She’s a pharmacy technician — but not too long ago, she and her five kids found themselves homeless. She shared her story about how CVS Health’s Workforce Innovation and Talent Center changed her life. The centers provide people in under served communities with the training, resources and support network they need to be successful. Like Carrie.
At Healthy Communities News, we spotlight the people and places that are tackling local health challenges in impactful ways. The University of San Francisco (USF) is one of over 200 colleges and universities adopting policies to eliminate tobacco from their campuses as part of the CVS Health Foundation Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative. It’s a part of the $50 million commitment to help deliver the first tobacco-free generation launched by CVS Health soon after it quit selling tobacco products five years ago. We visited USF to see what a tobacco-free campus looks like and sat down with students, staff and our partner at the American Cancer Society for their thoughts on going 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free.
With 99 percent of smokers beginning by the age of 26, college is a critical time to prevent the start of life-long addiction to nicotine and tobacco. Temple University in Philadelphia went smoke- and tobacco-free in July of 2019. We sat down with a group of their students for a candid conversation on how the program is going in its early days. We also chatted with Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, a national public health organization focused on youth tobacco prevention known for its edgy, award-winning “Truth” campaign.
In Nashville, Tennessee, there’s a low-slung brick building nestled among fast food shops and a gas station on Clarksville Pike. It’s proudly painted red, white, and blue — a comfortable, well-worn spot that’s become a cultural hub for generations of African-American customers.
Barbershops are not just places to get a shave and a haircut. For African-American communities, they can also become havens for much-needed health care services. High rates of hypertension in this community are compounded by the fact that African-American men often aren’t receiving regular medical care.
To address this, a group of partners, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Nashville Health, and CVS Health, are placing pharmacists inside Nashville barbershops to test patrons for high blood pressure and recommend treatments.
Listen to this episode’s podcast for a deeper dive.