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Creating a Culture of Healthy Living

During the first week of May, CDC's Healthy Communities Program hosted the Strategic Alliance for Health Action Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Over 200 state, territorial, tribal, and local public health professionals came together for one week to learn about and collaborate on innovative ways to implement policy, systems, and environmental changes to accelerate the prevention of chronic diseases and support healthy lifestyles. As part of the conference, participants dined on delicious, nutritious food, sweated during physical activity breaks, and enjoyed an hour-long Zumba class.

Photo: People participating a group activity.Participants not only engaged with two keynote speakers—Dr. Wayne Giles, CDC's Director for the Division of Adult and Community Health, and Dr. Damon Arnold, Director of Illinois Department of Public Health—but they also learned different policy, systems, and environmental strategies from innovational national experts as well as from one another during roundtable discussions and interactive workshops. Each of the fourteen Strategic Alliance for Health communities presented an initiative:

  • Creating Walking Paths in Rural Communities
  • Enhancing an Existing Farmers Market to Increase Community Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
  • Reducing Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption Through Policy and Social Norm Change
  • Increasing Access to Healthy Foods in Schools: the Adoption and Implementation of Competitive Food Guidelines
  • School Compliance with District School Wellness Policy Through the Excellence in School Wellness Award
  • Farm to School Program
  • Tobacco-Free Policy for City Parks
  • Movers and Shakers Program—Providing Six Minutes of Physical Activity in the Classroom
  • Increased Breastfeeding Among African American Women
  • Facilitating Adoption of a Smoke-Free Housing Policy for a Tribal Housing Authority
  • Establishing Work Site Wellness Committees
  • Gardens in the Parks: Growing a Garden Policy
  • Patriot Breakfast Program—Serving Breakfast to All Students in the Classroom
  • Improving Access and Consumption of Healthier Foods to Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

Photo: A panel discussionWhat Is the Strategic Alliance for Health?

Each year 7 out of 10 deaths among Americans are from chronic diseases. In efforts to combat chronic diseases, CDC's Healthy Communities Program funded 14 communities in 2008 to form the Strategic Alliance for Health. By working collaboratively with key partners, the funded communities are creating healthier communities through sustainable, innovative, and evidence- and practice-based community health promotion and chronic disease prevention programs that promote policy, systems, and environmental change and help achieve the Healthy People 2010 objectives. For a 5-year period, all Strategic Alliance for Health communities focus their efforts on schools and one or more areas, such as community, work site, or health care sectors. Also, the communities serve as mentors to other communities by developing and implementing action guides for evidence- and practice-based strategies that combat chronic diseases.

Strategic Alliance for Health communities focus on building local capacity to:

  • Promote physical activity and nutrition
  • Reduce tobacco use and exposure
  • Foster improved and increased access to quality care
  • Help eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities
  • Reduce complications from and incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity

U.S. State and Territorial Health Departments Collaborative for Chronic Diseases

Collaborative efforts and national connections were achieved as Healthy Community Coordinators from 50 states and 2 territorial health departments joined the Strategic Alliance for Health Action Institute. Because Strategic Alliance for Health communities and state and territorial health departments share similar goals of building community capacity and support to implement strategies for policy, systems, and environmental changes that will facilitate healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic diseases, the Action Institute provided an excellent opportunity for participants to share best practices.

Through funding from CDC's Healthy Communities Program, the state and territorial health departments provide technical assistance and training to communities on developing and implementing policy, systems, and environmental changes to combat chronic diseases or related risk factors.

More Information

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