Since 2018, communities across the state of Wisconsin have been recognized through the Wisconsin Healthy Communities Designation program of the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute. A group of representatives gathered in Oshkosh for a convening September of 2022 to recognize the 2021 designees, which included 29 Wisconsin communities. The convening provided a place for the healthy communities to network, celebrate successes, and focus in on strategies to grow economic development and health equity.
The Wisconsin Healthy Communities Designation (HCD) is designed to celebrate and encourage achievements in community health improvement and promote cooperation and collaboration across multiple sectors. Communities are awarded the designation over three tiers: gold, silver, and bronze. The tiered criteria allows for acknowledgment of communities early on in their broad health improvement efforts, as well as those communities with more advanced, comprehensive, and long-lasting efforts. Criteria is based on six guiding principles:
- Defining health broadly
- Committing to sustainable and comprehensive long-term solutions
- Creating conditions that give everyone a fair and just opportunity to reach their best possible health
- Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members
- Securing and making the most of available resources, including dollars, people, power, etc.
- Measuring and sharing progress and results
The keynote at the convening was delivered by David Zuckerman, President and Founder of the Healthcare Anchor Network. He brought a new lens to economic development that improve health equity. His keynote emphasized cross sector collaboration, creating equitable conditions to improve community health, and developing innovative long-term solutions.
Abby Gorecki, a Public Health Strategist for the City of Greenfield Health Department, shared more about working with the HCD program, “Overall, the partnership there has been amazing, and I think the key driver from the Healthy Communities Designation was that we need to focus more on equity. Building on this initiative in particular, we were able to expand and include a peer specialist on our community-based health team.”
Other Greenfield initiatives included expansion of a green infrastructure program and building of the “Powerline Trail” – a walking and biking path that now provides a safe space for exercise in the city, where Gorecki explained, some neighborhoods still lack sidewalks and where there are not many safe places outdoors for recreation. Amongst multiple other efforts, the city implemented a harm reduction program with an opioid fatality review team, Narcan distribution, Fentanyl test strip distribution and a medication dropbox. Since August of 2022, the city has distributed 286 Narcan Kits with 572 doses of Narcan and 197 Fentanyl test strips. They’ve also implemented www.safegreenfield.com – resource hub developed in partnership with the opioid fatality review team, which includes police, fire, community medical services, and a peer specialist, among others.
Gorecki explained that Greenfield has a silver designation and has been striving for gold. In strategizing how to continue to grow better health and equity in the community, Gorecki said their team was inspired by the HCD recommendations and guidance. She shared; “That’s where I went okay, it’s really the equity piece and the evaluation piece that we were doing, but we can strengthen. It fits into the piece of what we’re doing as a city and how that works together. So, there was some purposeful reflection after we were designated to look back on: How do we evaluate? How do we integrate programs? And how do we make sure we are being equitable and that we can paint that picture better than we have before?”
For Gorecki, working with the program was a positive experience, “I was feeling inspired being the one coordinating everything from looking at contributions and then having other discussions to support successes, accelerations, and purposefully talking about where we need to go and where we need to look at to strengthen what we’re doing.”
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to be the healthiest they can be. And a healthy community is more than just access to healthy food and places to do physical activity—it’s having good jobs, safe, affordable housing, accessible transportation, clean water, and much more” UW’s HCD program coordinator McKenzie Liegel shared. The Wisconsin Healthy Communities Designation recognizes those communities that acknowledge this and are working to improve health, not only with local health departments and health systems, but with their schools, businesses, libraries, parks departments, and more. It takes all of us to improve the health of our communities.”
Communities that apply for and receive the Healthy Communities Designation award have a concrete way to demonstrate the quality of life in their community. This designation, whether gold, silver, or bronze, is validating for all those in the community that work toward improving community health.
The HCD program received funding from the Wisconsin Partnership Program through 2022.
Learn more about the Wisconsin Healthy Communities Designation program, and find a full list of the initiatives designees highlighted at: https://www.wihealthycommunities.org/designees.
Gorecki said their team was inspired by the HCD recommendations and guidance. She shared; “That’s where I went okay, it’s really the equity piece and the evaluation piece that we were doing, but we can strengthen. It fits into the piece of what we’re doing as a city and how that works together. So, there was some purposeful reflection after we were designated to look back on: How do we evaluate? How do we integrate programs? And how do we make sure we are being equitable and that we can paint that picture better than we have before?”
29 Healthy Community Designees, 2022
Eau Claire County
East Central WI Region
Pierce and St Croix Counties
Region of Boscobel, Fennimore, & Muscoda
Region of Hillsboro, Elroy, & Wonewoc