Healthy communities are no accident. They require citizen participation and ownership at a very local level. We build them by recognizing and building upon the abundance of relationships and strengths already present among their residents. Yet most efforts to improve community health focus on a community’s deficits, ignoring the assets of the community itself. These efforts are generally well-meant, but this approach, though common in practice, reduces citizens and neighborhoods to mere consumers of services, dependent on outside experts for everything from their health to other aspects of their lives. Get updates on the Strong Neighborhood Project page: www.strongneighborhood.org.
This application for the Collective Impact grant is built upon seven “pillars” that comprise a healthy community:
- the quality of care provided by a community’s members for each other
- medical and mental health
- child wellbeing
- local economy
- the availability of quality food
- environmental health
- public safety and security
The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation has awarded a grant of $505,000 over three years to engage neighborhood residents in developing the health and wellbeing of at least one neighborhood in Rapides Parish, starting with downtown Pineville, which we define for this project as census tracts 116, 117, and 131. This work will take place first in connection with Pineville Elementary School and, with the changes that were made to school zones in February 2018, Lessie Moore Elementary School.
We selected three census tracts in Pineville as our first priority for several reasons, some of which are traditional. For example, they have significant levels of poverty, deteriorating housing, and other needs that are not being adequately addressed. The three tracts are demographically different (see the census data in the appendix), with one tract classified as low income, one as moderate income, and one as middle income by the FFIEC data used by banks and other institutions.
More importantly, Pineville has significant strengths and assets upon which to build. The principal of Pineville Elementary School, Dr. Erin Stokes, has demonstrated leadership and an innovative spirit through her enthusiastic commitment to a process known as The Leader in Me (TLIM). This process is based on Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It transforms the organizational culture of a school and has already been highly effective in dozens of schools around the Lafayette region. There it has not only helped students improve their grades but has also cut behavioral problems in half, improved attendance, and greatly developed relational “soft” skills among students. Children tend to take the seven habits home with them, influencing family dynamics and engaging parents in school activities.