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Reflections from the LiveWell HEAL Summit

Above: The audience at the Summit. Photo Credit: LiveWell Colorado

LiveWell Colorado’s 2017 Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Summit was an opportunity for a diverse group of professionals to come together and share their experiences, successes, and challenges for improving access to healthy living in Colorado. Like many states across the country, Colorado is working toward overcoming socioeconomic barriers associated with Coloradans’ ability to consume healthy foods and participate in an active lifestyle. The HEAL Summit welcomed attendees from both rural and urban Colorado who work in municipalities, non-profits, the private sector, and public health to collaborate with one another on the issue of health equity as it pertains to food security and the built environment.

Above: Dwayne Wharton leads a discussion on collaboration for policy change. Photo Credit: LiveWell Colorado

An overarching theme developed during the HEAL Summit: the importance of building partnerships with both professionals and community members who have a shared vision. During The Food Trust’s session on “Local food coalitions: Working on effective public policy together”, facilitator Dwayne Wharton led a discussion about how organizations can achieve greater impact when they engage with others who are striving to accomplish a similar goal, which has been exemplified at the state level by the Colorado Food Policy Network. Building a coalition of diverse organizations and stakeholders allows for professionals to learn from one another and share resources. This concept was also embodied at the local level in Garfield County. During the “Healthy food access: A community-wide approach in rural Colorado” panel, representatives discussed how they identified their existing resources for minimizing food waste and teamed up with other organizations in Garfield County to fight food insecurity by maximizing their community assets.

Above: Tamika Butler presents at the HEAL Summit.

Photo Credit: LiveWell Colorado

HEAL Summit speakers emphasized the value of community engagement during all stages of policy development. Community members are the experts about their neighborhoods; to understand whether an intervention or policy would be successful, professionals need to connect with, and listen to, those who would be the most impacted by the proposed change. Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, held the keynote session on Friday morning that challenged Summit attendees to better understand the inequities experienced by members of the communities in which they hope to evoke change by conversing with, listening to, and building trust with those members. Butler’s moving talk about the importance of recognizing the socioeconomic factors that contribute to an individual’s ability to live healthfully, such as poverty, and considering them during policy change resulted in a standing applause by HEAL Summit attendees.

Above: Rebecca Gernes from Denver Department of Public Health and Environment presenting.

The last theme that emerged during the HEAL Summit sessions was the advantage of setting specific, measurable goals. To validate an organization’s efforts, its critical to track and report on variables during all stages of an intervention: at baseline, during implementation, and at the conclusion. Collecting data to corroborate outcomes of a project can aid in grant funding and stakeholder engagement. Kayla Gilbert and Rebecca Gernes from Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and Jill Locantore from WalkDenver discussed their data collection techniques to track sidewalk quality, intersection quality, and pedestrian usage of Denver streets during the “Using Data to Engage Communities and Inform Placemaking” session. The data collected ultimately provided evidence to the city council for the necessity of increased sidewalk maintenance in the Denver-metro area.

LiveWell Colorado’s 2017 HEAL Summit allowed for a diverse group of professionals to participate in rich conversation about integrating equity into all healthy living policies. Forming partnerships with organizations with shared goals, engaging community members to understand their needs, and collecting data about outcomes are lessons learned from the Summit about how to advance efforts toward improving access for healthy living in Colorado.

Above: Attendees assemble in the ballroom to hear speakers. Photo Credit: LiveWell Colorado

Above: Attendees network at a post-event reception.

Photo Credit: LiveWell Colorado

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