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Healthy Community Initiative Needs Working Group Volunteers

Published: May 26, 2018

The Healthy Community initiative being spearheaded by the Newtown Center for Support and Wellness (CSW) is moving into its next chapter, soliciting and engaging four working groups around the core pillars of the effort.

The CSW’s work producing a strategic plan for supporting a healthy community began by organizing the task force, a consortium of local officials, town staff members, residents, and others charged with defining what a healthy community is through a behavioral health lens.

Creating this definition was the first step in the implementation of a long-term plan for a healthy community, Ms Crane said.

This defining of a healthy community will help to set the course for the predictors of behavioral health in Newtown and assist in reporting gaps and successes.

After a survey was conducted that generated more than 400 community responses, a number of focus groups worked on various iterations, and national research and accepted social predictors of health were examined, the task force was able to create a definition and supporting town philosophy for community health:

“A Healthy Community is one where all individuals and families have awareness and access to opportunities for social, physical, and emotional health. The Town of Newtown strives to provide a healthy community that encourages schools, businesses, and organizations to support wellness through the delivery of services which promote: Healthy Life Choices, Connections With Others, Awareness and Education, and Positive Emotional Well Being.”

Jennifer Crane, the CSW’s director told The Newtown Bee that she is seeking three to four community members for each category’s working group to inventory existing resources and determine data points necessary to measure success. Although leading the Healthy Community initiative, Ms Crane said collaboration and input from all community members and organizations is critical for the effort’s ultimate success.

To that end, she hopes to enlist a group of community members to explore community standards and recommendations for the promotion of healthy community efforts, explore other large community initiatives to identify points of shared purpose and collaboration, and to explore the use of a community calendar that can be leveraged for all organizations.

In an effort to further promote the work, Ms Crane said any community member that would like to add the CSW to an agenda for a meeting to hear more about either the Center or the Healthy Community initiative is invited to contact her.

“In an ideal world, the healthy community initiative would lead to community members being able to see a visual demonstration onsite and online of how local organizations are supporting the healthy community,” Ms Crane said. “At the conclusion of the current work, the community will have access to all activities supporting a healthy community, and the town will have a collective way to measure our success and gaps.”

Involvement And Survey

Ms Crane also circulated a list of ways that all task force participants could involve their respective staff members, volunteers, or constituents. They include:
*Sharing the summary with staff/organization members and having follow-up conversations.
*Reviewing their own programming and services to see which domains are supported.
*Considering whether they or a staff member could be part of the next stage of working groups.
*Beginning a conversation with their staff about what a healthy community means to them.
*Providing their staff with an update about the task force and/or your involvement.

Ms Crane also provided a review of the completed community survey and revealed the following points:
*Male participants represented 20 percent of all responses.
*Almost half of respondents consider themselves involved versus not involved with the town.
*The issues respondents saw as important when considering a healthy community remained consistent across seven categories.
*The number of rating stars given to the community was nearly even between three and four stars at 42.9 percent each.
*Open ended themes were about accessibility, opportunities to come together as a community, and issues around mental health.

Residents, town officials, and representatives of various local agencies and nonprofits participating in the Healthy Community forums and task force to date include: Amy Mangold, Ann Lobosco, Anna Wiedemann, Alex Lunding, Bret Nichols, Candice Bohr, Police Chief James Viadero and Captain Chris Vanghele, Dave Jacob, Desiree Lee, Donna Culbert, and Dorrie Carolan.

Also, Dr Della Schmidt, Dr Lorrie Rodrigue, Dr Laura Nowacki, Jennifer Barahona, Jessica Ward, Jill Pluta, John Boccuzzi, Sr, Ned and Katherine Simpson, Katie Nash, Kristen Larson, Marilyn Place, Rev Matt Crebbin, Melanie Bonjour, Mary Neilsen, Nancy Doniger, Stephanie Cinque, Tricia Pinto, Barbara Bloom, Corinne Ofgang, and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal.

The NHS students working on the effort are: Marlena Young, Madison Ziperstein, Elizabeth Salley, Jenny Wadhwa, Paul Samberg, Maya Wadhwa, Colby Troy, and Karsen Miller.

Ms Crane said she is also grateful to each person who stepped forward to assist in the project, including residents and others who took the time to respond to the survey.

“I want to thank all the community members who took the Healthy Community Survey,” she said. “Your responses have already been shared and will continue to be shared with the task force and next steps subgroups looking at each domain.”

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