Healthy Monadnock 2020 offers communities a blueprint to a healthier future

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The Cheshire Medical Center/ Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Keene, NH, issued a challenge seven years ago to Cheshire County residents: Let’s work together to become the healthiest community in the nation by 2020.

The hospital formed what is now called the “Healthy Monadnock 2020” initiative to improve the health of not just the 77,000 residents of the county, but the broader region of southwestern New Hampshire, which is home to about 200,000 people. A recent community health survey showed the region has made significant improvements across a range of health indicators.

“We are definitely on our way,” says Linda Rubin, director of Cheshire Medical Center’s healthy community initiative and a member of the Healthy Monadnock 2020’s advisory board. For its leadership of the
community-wide health improvement initiative, Cheshire Medical Center Nov. 4 received the AHA Carolyn Boone Lewis Living the Vision Award. Renamed in 2002 in memory of the first hospital trustee to serve as AHA chairman, the award honors hospitals that are helping to build healthier communities through actions that go beyond traditional hospital care.

“Becoming the healthiest community is a significant challenge and it’s one that Cheshire Medical Center is ready to meet,” said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock, who traveled to Keene Monday to present the award to hospital leaders.

Under the Healthy Monadnock 2020 banner, more than 2,200 people and 85 area businesses so far are registered in a “Champions” program – a grassroots effort aimed at creating a healthy workplace, school or club environment. Champions pledge to live, share and inspire others to follow the goals and values of Healthy Monadnock 2020. “They are our boots on the ground advocates for change in the community,” says Rubin.

Cheshire Medical Center CEO and President Art Nichols describes Healthy Monadnock 2020 as an “attempt to change
how we perceive our health, and to create an awareness of the importance individuals play in determining their own health status. “ A 30-member advisory board includes representatives of schools, local government agencies, social service and youth organizations and businesses. It meets six times a year to evaluate strategies designed to keep the community on a pathway to progress on major health measures. A wide range of initiatives are supported and advanced, like, for example, city committees making it safer for kids to walk or bike to school, a local food coalition increasing the community’s access to fresh food and a community program helping workplaces become advocates for healthy living.

For Healthy Monadnock 2020, community health includes things like transportation infrastructure – demonstrated through “Complete Streets,” a nationwide safe streets project spearheaded in the area by the Monadnock Region Transportation Management Association (MRTMA) and Keene Planning Commission. The term is used to describe a set of design principles that promote safer access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public
transportation users of all ages and abilities.

The Complete Streets model, recently adopted in Keene, will help planning or public works departments consider all user groups, not just cars, when reconstructing or building new streets, says MRTMA coordinator J.B. Mack. MRTMA is a major partner in the Healthy Monadnock 2020 initiative.

“The goal is to make all users comfortable on our streets,” Mack says. “If you ...

Topic: Advocacy and Public Policy

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