Answering the call for a healthier America, the Clinton Foundation launched the Clinton Health Matters Initiative aimed at improving the well-being of our nation’s population and reducing health care costs associated with preventable disease. And they are doing it one community and one person, at a time.
The Coachella Valley is one of the first two regions, along with Little Rock, Arkansas, selected to serve as a model for how systematic change can advance community health. The Initiative will activate individuals, engage the private sector, and bring community groups together to create goals and implement change.
“President Clinton chose this region because he saw the need, along with so many great resources already in place,” says Tricia Gehrlein, Regional Director of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative. “We have strong support from local leaders and community groups who are moving toward the same goals. Our community is ready.” Gehrlein is a 24 year local who worked at Desert Regional Medical Center and the Desert Healthcare District before joining the Foundation. “I am the facilitator to bring people together and help programs move forward with additional resources.”
The community determines the work to be done. In December, 140 local leaders gathered to come up with a total of 45 goals to serve as the Valley’s blueprint for action. These goals will be launched in January 2013.
Working at national, regional and individual levels, the Initiative is asking corporations, community groups and individuals, to “make a pledge” for health improvement. “A pledge for health that is sustainable, replicable and measurable,” says Gehrlein. “The idea is to create a program that can be replicated in other communities.”
Nationally, large corporations are being asked to work together to voluntarily change business practices for better health. One example of the Foundation’s success is how the Alliance for a Healthier Generation worked with Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co. and Dr. Pepper to reduce sugary sweetened beverages in schools, leading to a 90% reduction nationwide.
The Initiative’s national partners such as GE and Verizon, will leverage their resources to accomplish regional goals. An initiative in the works with Verizon is to help resolve a local communication challenge. Gehrlein met with the valley’s local health information managers and identified that one of their greatest challenges is connectivity in the East Valley. “If it rains, phones and internet don’t work well due to older equipment in those communities, a serious detriment to hospitals and medical staff.” So Verizon is looking into how they can contribute in-kind services to improve communication.
Individuals can take part through the Health Matters Initiative website, where examples of successful health pledges from throughout the country are visible. “It can be as simple as starting a walking group – or generating neighborhood programs in an underutilized park.” All pledges are reviewed by the Foundation’s headquarters, and Gehrlein is here to help locally.
As the first region to launch the Initiative, the Coachella Valley is setting the tone and our successes will be duplicated in other communities. Individuals, groups, companies and employers are encouraged to make a pledge to support local goals and work together to improve the health of our community. Gehrlein adds, “President Clinton didn’t just give us the opportunity; he is giving us the ability and the tools to make real change.”