Special Supplement Focuses on Community-Driven Efforts to Increase Health Equity

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New Research from Michigan Public Health Faculty

A team of University of Michigan Public Health faculty edited and contributed to a new special supplement of the peer-reviewed journal Health Promotion Practice (HPP) that focuses on community-driven initiatives to create lasting change and contribute to health equity.

"Community-Driven Efforts to Increase Equity in Communities Through Policy and Systems Change: Outcomes and Lessons Learned From 9 Years of Food & Fitness Community Partnerships" features 12 articles and two commentaries, including three case studies highlighting the processes, partnerships and local policy changes needed to overcome barriers and create community-driven equitable change in food and fitness environments.

Six culturally diverse community partnerships experiencing high rates of health inequities and poverty comprised the Food & Fitness (F&F) Initiative, which was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation beginning in 2006.

Researchers from Michigan Public Health provided guidance to the communities from 2007 to 2016 and conducted the cross-site evaluation, which helped document the lessons learned in this special issue.

"A critical focus of this initiative has been to use community-determined approaches to create changes in policies, infrastructures, and systems that will lead not only to change but also to sustainable change that positively influences health equity," says Laurie Lachance, associate research scientist in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. Lachance is an HPP co-guest editor and the principal investigator for the F&F initiative. "Engaging communities early in the process and developing leadership capacity of community members were among the vital elements for success."

The cross-site evaluation revealed six characteristics related to program sustainability necessary for long-lasting program outcomes.

The articles present other important lessons learned over the nine-year program, including those relevant to other funders interested in addressing social determinants of health. Through the project, a new catalytic model of leadership for community change also was documented, focusing on the collective contributions of multisector partnerships rather than focusing on individual contributions. Case studies in the supplement identify factors that can derail community-driven work such as unequal power sharing, racism, and hierarchical structures in organizations.

HPP's Deputy Editor Dr. Holly Mata notes, "The stories and data within these pages reflect the commitment of stakeholders in communities everywhere to doing their work purposefully, inclusively, and sustainably. Each of these articles-and the issue as a whole-should challenge and inspire us to learn from and build upon the work described in the following pages."

View the special supplement via open access.

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