The Coachella Valley is coming together in the name of good health and longevity. We accepted the challenge from the Clinton Foundation to serve as the first model city for the national Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) and action steps are underway.

The mission of the CHMI is to improve the well-being of our nation’s population and reduce health care costs associated with preventable disease. “More than 70% of adults across the United States already live with a chronic disease,” states Ginny Ehrlich, Chief Executive Officer of the CHMI. “We have a very costly epidemic on our hands, yet many of these diseases are preventable.” Using proven models, the Initiative’s goal is to build a platform to help people make small lifestyle changes to increase longevity and quality of life. This community-by-community effort is starting in the Coachella Valley. Other cities who have accepted the challenge include Little Rock, AK; Houston, TX; and greater Jacksonville, FL.

Following the launch of the CHMI in November, the Clinton Foundation brought together 125 local leaders and stakeholders to identify needs and develop 45 concrete goals and strategies to accomplish over the next 5 – 7 years. This plan serves as the Blueprint for Action…and the actions are bold.

So who is doing all the work? It is not the Clinton Foundation. It is each and every one of us who chooses to be a part of this monumental movement. The Foundation is providing valuable resources including an established platform, examples of success, and the connectivity that only a former President can deliver. Acting as the facilitator, the Foundation will bring individuals and groups together for greater combined success.

Those contributing will range from mothers who start making healthier choices at the grocery store, to seniors who start a walking club in their neighborhood. From small employers who offer recess breaks in their workplace, to large hotels that implement wellness plans for employees. From non-profit organizations who join forces to serve a larger population, to major corporations who donate their time and resources to improve accessibility.

In this issue, we feature some of the local people, groups and programs already in place (look for the icon as on page 1). They include two sisters who started the Valley’s first American Red Cross Club at La Quinta High, and Hidden Harvest and FIND Food Bank which gained grant funding from the Desert Healthcare District by coming together with a strategy to reach a larger number of our Valley’s hungry.

We also feature some of the national successes presented at the Clinton Health Matters Conference to serve as examples of how each and every one of us can make a difference. These include a Virginia Beach teen whose healthy invention brought him to our nation’s capital to meet the First Lady, and a hotel chain that implemented a wellness program that is dramatically changing the lives of its employees.

How does it work?

The success of the Clinton Foundation’s national and global initiatives is due largely in part to individual and corporate “Pledges.” These commitments to action are not necessarily cash donations, but rather goals – large and small – supported by a strategy and a means of measuring results. Local Pledges should contribute to the established Blueprint for Action, and if successful, will serve as a model for other communities.

As an example, Desert Health® pledged to increase the number of medical professionals who volunteer at the Valley’s only free medical clinic, Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine (CVVIM). The clinic currently sees a fraction of patients they could serve due to a lack of volunteers. Our goal is to double the number of volunteer doctors and nurses and to increase access for the nearly 60,000 community members in need. ‘Access to Health Care’ is a primary goal of the community Blueprint for Action.

Our strategy is to run an awareness campaign in Desert Health® that encourages medical professionals to contribute just four hours a month (which could be their individual Pledge). We are working with local hospitals to extend the awareness campaign internally and will seek assistance from other organizations. Our results will be measured by the number of medical professionals who heed the call and contribute their time.

Other local organizations with Pledges include the City of Coachella, Desert Healthcare Foundation, City of Palm Springs, Desert Regional Medical Center and JFK Hospital. These are supported by the CHMI’s national Pledges which total a $100 million investment in health and wellness and affect over 25 million people.

What are our goals?

Goals were established using the County Health Ranking Model, an evidence-based framework for the contributing factors to morbidity and mortality which was introduced by the Clinton Foundation. “We look at health very holistically,” says Ehrlich, “so we use a model that not only talks about health care, but also prevention and lifestyle factors; physical environment including quality of air and opportunities for activity; and social and economic factors, which we know play such an important role in overall health status.”

Established goals aim at improving health behaviors (smoking, diet and exercise, alcohol use and sexual activity); clinical care (access and quality); social and economic factors (education, employment, family and social support, income and community safety); and physical environment (air quality and constructing healthier communities).

The Blueprint outlines five bold steps for each category (total 45) and the means by which each will be measured. Action steps include the development of infrastructures, awareness campaigns, youth councils, school curriculums, non-motorized transportation plans, and more.

With no management team, established budget or individual leader, how does it succeed? “We don’t own this plan,” says Ehrlich on behalf of the Foundation, “It was created by the community and it will only work if we don’t own it.”

The synergy of organizations coming together will accelerate success and will be the primary focus of the Clinton Foundation’s local Director, Tricia Gehrlein. An advisory board or working group made up of community leaders will support each goal and oversee the progress. $200,000 in program funding has already been Pledged by Mayor Steve Pougnet through his Mayor’s Race & Wellness and matched by the Desert Healthcare District for a total of $400,000.

It’s each of these small steps – and those yet to come – which will contribute to the Blueprint’s success. It is a five-year plan and progress will be measured by data provided by program partners and surveys by HARC, the Valley’s Health Assessment Resource Center.

How can I take part?

No one person or group can do this alone. The goals will be achieved by commitments to action from each and every one of us. Whether it is simply changing your own habits, or creating a plan to enhance the well-being of your friends, family or workplace, deciding to take action is the first step.

Identify something you can do within your community to create change. Whether this is volunteering or creating a group activity, know there is greater success in numbers.

Visit the Clinton Health Matters Initiative website to learn more about the program and make a Pledge. “There is such a tremendous spirit in this Valley among the people who live here to really advance an ideal such as this,” concludes Erhlich. “And the changes we will see will make this an idyllic place to live for everyone in the community.”

Tricia Gehrlein, Regional Director, Clinton Health Matters Initiative can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 834.0975

For more information on the Clinton Health Matters Initiative:

The Coachella Valley Blueprint for Action is available at:

To take action:

To make a Pledge:

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