El Paso County Public Health in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was recently awarded a $1.1 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation for Healthy Places: Designing an Active Colorado, in a Southeast Colorado Springs community where the social determinants of health are being addressed through an active resident-led coalition.
Funds from the grant, which were awarded in October 2018, will be used over a three-year period to develop activities aimed at improving the quality of life in Southeast Colorado Springs by promoting and enhancing connectedness and building power. The first objective of the project is to build up a community “hub” in Southeast Colorado Springs, with the aim of creating a vibrant community space that will bring more people together around desired uses and basic needs. The second objective is to increase a local Community Development Corporation’s capacity to build community wealth and advocacy power from within. This impactful, upstream approach will help area residents to be more active and thrive in the places where they live, work and play.
Health department leaders view the award as a “tangible validation” of the link between PHAB accreditation and the receipt of funding. “When the Colorado Health Foundation reviewed our proposal, they noticed that we were the first accredited public health agency in the state of Colorado,” said former Public Health Planner and Accreditation Coordinator Mina Liebert. “At that time, the Foundation was not familiar with PHAB accreditation, but they conducted some research and realized that it was not just a rubber stamp designation. The Foundation’s program officers were impressed with the PHAB process and thought it was notable that the agency has a set of standards and measures that we are held accountable to.”
The Healthy Places grant traces its roots to a December 2016 “Building Healthy Places Workshop.” At that time, more than 30 local stakeholders came together with Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Technical Advisory Panel to produce a diverse set of recommendations to improve health through the built environment. Ideas focused conceptually on activating vacant and underutilized spaces and fostering community leadership to drive change – concepts that were expanded upon during the Healthy Places process. Building on this work and healthy eating and active living priorities identified in the 2017 El Paso County Community Health Assessment, El Paso County Public Health collaborated with RISE (Resilient, Inspired, Strong and Engaged) Southeast Colorado Springs to strategize an impactful, upstream approach to improve health through the built environment. The Foundation’s initial investment allowed for hosting a ULI Technical Advisory Panel in January 2018 in which they conducted an in-depth site visit to the area to meet with community stakeholders and residents in an effort to gain a better understanding of the community’s unique values, assets and challenges. Following the visit, the team provided specific recommendations for physical and policy improvements to increase physical activity and improve health in the community, which included the establishment of a community hub and community development corporation.
“We see this Healthy Places funding opportunity from the Colorado Health Foundation as a tangible validation of the link between PHAB accreditation and the receipt of funding,” El Paso County Public Health staff said. “PHAB accreditation is one way that we can demonstrate to funders our ability to monitor health and mobilize community partners.”
El Paso County Public Health in Colorado Springs, Colorado, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on August 20, 2013.