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Communities Rewarded for Building a Culture of Health

Prize recognizes economic growth and housing as part of overall well-being

Allen County, Kansas Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

William Widmer/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Allen County, Kan., was one of the winners of the 2017 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize.

Eight communities around the country were honored recently with the 2017 Culture of Health Prize for their efforts to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to live healthier lives. Several of the winners have programs focusing on older adults.



The Culture of Health Prize is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Selected from a group of more than 200 applicants, winners will receive $25,000 and join the growing network of prize-winning communities (now totaling 35), all of which share best practices with other U.S. communities. 

Winning communities don't just focus on medical care, according to the foundation; rather, they also promote safe and affordable housing, economic development, access to healthy foods, education and activities in an effort to address overall health and well-being.

Here are this year's winning communities:

  • Algoma, Wis. — This rural city, which sits on on the shores of Lake Michigan, hosts a Community Wellness Center that offers free confidential health care consultations, healthy eating classes and physical fitness programs where teens lead older adults through strength exercises.
  • Allen County, Kan. — Allen County residents voted in 2010 to raise local taxes to pay for a new hospital. Not only was access to health care expanded, but the old hospital site has been repurposed into a grocery store and housing development. 
  • Chelsea, Mass. — Chelsea’s diverse community members come together to promote better health for all, the foundation notes. Residents are working to reduce diesel fuel emissions and to improve the energy efficiency and indoor air quality of homes. 
  • Garrett County, Md. — This rural Appalachian community borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and its leaders are tackling the health effects of poverty by improving access to education, housing and jobs. They are encouraging residents' participation with an online planning tool, MyGarrettCounty.com.
  • Richmond, Va. — The city's Office of Community Wealth Building set a goal to reduce poverty by 40 percent by 2030. Efforts to reach this target include the transition of public housing residents into mixed-income housing and the development of bicycle and bus infrastructure. 
  • San Pablo, Calif. — This city is increasing health care access and supports residents’ well-being through the San Pablo Senior Center, a community center and a youth sports park. Twice a month the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano distributes food at the senior center.  “A lot of our seniors have to choose between medicine and food. That’s why we’re here,” Meg Zentner, a senior food coordinator for the Food Bank, told the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Groceries are delivered to older residents who can’t travel.
  • Seneca Nation of Indians in New York — The Seneca Nation of Indians, a federally recognized Native American tribe in western New York, is looking to its rich traditions to help shape the future. The tribe is integrating the Seneca language and culture into early-childhood and adult-immersion programs and offering programs to promote healing and restoration from historical trauma. 
  • Vicksburg, Miss. — Vicksburg, which sits above the banks of the Mississippi River, offers new housing, restaurants, shops and museums to help revitalize Vicksburg’s historic downtown district, thereby boosting the financial prospects of residents. 

The deadline to apply for the 2018 Culture of Health Prize is Nov. 3. More information is available from RWJF

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