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September 8, 2014 / Rebekah Seder, Editor

Announcing the Healthy Communities Working Group

By Mindy Rubin, Director of Safety Net Partnerships, Kaiser Permanente, and Healthy Communities Working Group Chair, and Crystal Townsend, President, Healthcare Initiative Foundation, and Healthy Communities Working Group Vice Chair


The more things change, the more they stay the same. Beginning today, the Health Working Group is now the Healthy Communities Working Group. We changed our name to better reflect our purpose and our work. We want to emphasize that in order to improve health in communities, we not only need to focus on quality healthcare and access to it, but also on the social, economic, and other factors that contribute to overall wellness.

For over 15 years, health funders have convened at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers as the Health Working Group. We meet regularly to learn from each other, and to find opportunities to collaborate and align our grantmaking to better support the organizations working to improve the health of all who live in our region. However, we realize that an important part of the community is often missing from the table: funders whose work is critical to the health of our residents and communities but who do not consider themselves to be “health funders.” We recognize that the name “Health Working Group” can give the impression that we focus exclusively on medical care. But medical care is not all there is to creating healthy communities. In fact, it is quite a small part of it, and so we have changed our name to better emulate all of our work.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being – not merely the absence of infirmity. WHO also defines a healthy community as one that “is safe, with affordable housing, accessible transportation systems, work for all who want to work, and access to health care services which focus on prevention and staying healthy.” 

This integrated approach recognizes the importance of focusing on the whole individual and the individual’s environment in order to achieve overall wellness. For instance, what is the likelihood of a young child overcoming childhood asthma if the housing he or she is living in has excessive mold? Or an individual with diabetes complying with a physician’s prescription for regular exercise in a neighborhood that is not safe for walking? Or a mother preparing healthy food for her children if her neighborhood has only fast food restaurants and convenience stores?

Our vision is that by working together, we can create communities where all people have an equal opportunity to live healthy and dignified lives. In the coming months, we look forward to exchanging information and points of view with other funders because we think that all of us – education funders, housing funders, arts, workforce, and food funders – play a role in creating healthy communities.


For more information about the Healthy Communities Working Group, please contact Phyllis Kaye, kaye@washingtongrantmakers.org.

3 Comments

  1. Stewart Schwartz / Sep 8 2014 11:10 am

    Thank you for having this important working group at Washington Grantmakers. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is active in promoting complete streets that are safe for all users and provide much better conditions for walking and bicycling and safe access to transit, schools, jobs, stores and services. We are joined by great partners like the regional office of the National Safe Routes to School group focusing on walking and bicycling to school, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling which focus on improving bike infrastructure including SRTS. Improving street networks in existing suburbs and ensuring new communities include an extensive grid of streets, sidewalks and bike facilities will be very beneficial for the health of our communities. Again, thank you for your initiative.

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