Innovation Fund Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) project
The HNH Foundation partnered with the Manchester Health Department (MHD) to implement an Innovation Fund (IF) Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) project in the city of Manchester. Manchester is the largest urban community in northern New England and is considered the most racially and ethnically diverse area in the state. The city faces public health challenges and complex disparities similar to those found in larger cities. By relying on traditionally disenfranchised residents as experts about their own communities and supporting a non-traditional, multi-sector partnership to engage residents, HNH and MHD made progress toward their goal to create neighborhoods that support access to healthy food and physical activity.
Manchester Health Department
HNH funded a part-time staff person at the Manchester Health Department to support a multi-sector HEAL Policy Committee, which in turn, was essential in maintaining community engagement. The HEAL Committee, which included representatives from city departments, local health care organizations, social service agencies and academia, as well as five Manchester residents from target neighborhoods, took on a variety of initiatives. The Committee conducted several neighborhood assessments (including food audits of corner stores and markets), coordinated a Health Impact Assessment training for city department staff and community partners, and hosted quarterly meetings that featured information sharing by representatives from key city departments. Neighborhood assessments, conducted in partnership with local partners, identified residents' top concerns which included:
- Pedestrian safety
- Improving places for family-based recreation
- Decreasing the speed of traffic
The HEAL Committee worked with the city's planning and community development departments and accomplished the following:
- Developed plans to transform residential alleyways into livable spaces that increase pedestrian safety and support neighborhood connections to schools and parks.
- Installation of 15 new pedestrian crosswalks (including one imprinted crosswalk in a high pedestrian/high traffic area)
- Pedestrian crossing signage at two high pedestrian/high traffic locations
Healthy Corner Stores Initiative
Additionally, the project formed an initiative called "Manchester Healthy Corner Stores" that worked to get healthy foods into local stores and put them front and center. Highlighted on NHPR, the initiative was able to offer healthier choices at several stores within the community.
Impact and Sustainability
The project has been so successful that the Manchester Health Department received support from local elected officials to continue the work, started under the Innovation Fund (IF), by redefining the scope of work of one of its full-time employees. This staffer will focus on implementing policy and environmental change strategies to improve the food environment in Manchester and work to maintain the multi-field policy committee, started with the IF initiative.
Content for this article was pulled from the Convergence Partnership website