Northampton, MA – Over 40 representatives from a diverse array of Healthy Hampshire community health projects to promote healthy food and active lifestyles assembled at the Collaborative for Educational Services on a recent sunny afternoon in October, to celebrate their work and look forward to the next phase.
Participants included Public Health, Planning and Council on Aging municipal representatives from across Hampshire County and the Hilltowns; volunteers and community leaders; funders; and project representatives from organizations that included the Hampshire Regional YMCA, CISA, Grow Food Northampton, PVGrows Investment Fund, Amherst Survival Center, Highlands Footpath, Cooley Dickinson Health Care, Hilltown Community Health Center, Hilltown Community Development Corporation, Quaboag Valley CDC, and Amherst Co-Op, among others.
Through the Healthy Hampshire partnership, the attendees have collaborated on projects that spanned mobile farmers markets, walkability audits, pedestrian-friendly policymaking, chronic disease management education, and more.
Healthy Hampshire is a collaboration between municipal leaders, elected officials, public health departments, planners, businesses, community organizations, and residents.. It is part of the Mass in Motion statewide initiative through the Department of Public Health and is administered by the City of Northampton in partnership with Community Health Solutions, a program of the Collaborative for Educational Services.
The mission of Healthy Hampshire is to reduce rates of chronic disease in its partner communities by effecting changes to policies and systems that encourage physical activity, healthy food access, improved patient care, and linkages between healthcare systems and community-level prevention activities.
Said Sarah Bankert, MPH, Community Prevention Specialist and Healthy Hampshire Program Manager for CES, “We are coming together to celebrate and mark the progress we have made in the last several years. There is a lot of good work going on, made possible through numerous collaborations with people passionate to make their community a place where good health can thrive. Sometimes we are too busy doing the work to remember to pause and look up– to celebrate our successes, renew our connection to one another and to see what’s coming on the horizon.”
Opening remarks were made by Ben Wood, Director of the Office of Community Health Planning and Engagement at the MA Department of Public Health. Participants at the event shared stories about some of the projects that have been the focus of Healthy Hampshire collaborations, including the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), the Northampton Built Environment, the Diabetes Prevention Program in the Hilltowns, Complete Streets in Goshen, and the Mobile Farmers Market in Northampton. These projects and more have engaged and involved community members, funders, and project managers experienced in moving public health projects forward. Following the presentations, participants spent time reflecting on their experiences, and discussing next steps, community needs, and priorities for new projects that will continue the work to foster a culture of health in our local communities.
One participant noted about the work with Healthy Hampshire that the partnership excels at facilitating collaboration, and engaging the community members with respect, and all were excited and enthusiastic about the new projects ahead. Said one attendee, “Before you bring people together, they see problems, not solutions – but when you bring them together, they start to see solutions.”