Columbus received disappointing news last week that it wasn’t chosen to compete in a national health challenge, but it would be wrong to call the city a loser.
From a pool of 41 communities, Columbus was among the 10 finalists for the Way to Wellville contest, in which participants try to produce visible improvements in five measures of health and economic vitality over the next five years. Making it that far shows that Columbus has taken positive steps to make its residents healthier.
The consolation of not being chosen is that Columbus was invited — and has accepted — to participate in Greater Wellville, a larger network that allows all the communities who applied to share ideas. That’s an opportunity to take best practices from other cities and apply them to our community, which could have long-term benefits for residents.
So could the examination process, which highlights strengths and areas needing improvement through internal and external reviews.
Healthy Communities Initiative and the Columbus Regional Health Foundation led the application effort. That involved self-examination of programs and projects to make city and Bartholomew County residents healthier.
There’s plenty to be proud of. For example, Healthy Communities celebrated its 20th anniversary; the Mill Race Marathon is preparing for its second annual event is just over a month; and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has removed all the deep fryers from its schools and changed food offerings to make lunches healthier for students.
Representatives of contest sponsor Health Initiative Coordination Council who personally visited to Columbus had good things to say about the community. They:
Complimented Columbus Regional Health on its ability to pull together stakeholders.
Said Columbus pays attention to detail and has a collaborative environment.
Cited the Nurse-Family Partnership, aimed at lowering the proportion of babies with low birth weights, as a strength.
Described the community’s focus on employability as a strength.
Those compliments are affirmation that local efforts to make residents healthier are on the right track.
An even greater benefit is that the eagerness and zest for healthier lifestyles shown by local advocates wasn’t deterred by the disappointing news. In fact, Healthy Communities and its partners said they plan to move forward with the three focus items highlighted in the city’s proposal. They are:
Create a Healthy Communities Connection Center, which would include a nurse-family partnership program to improve chronic disease care between school nurses and pediatricians.
Accelerate the health impact of Community Education Coalition initiatives and United Way’s Bartholomew County Works program.
Work with employers to encourage healthy lifestyle programs.
So while Columbus wasn’t one of the five finalist communities chosen to compete in the national Wellville challenge, having been part of the competitive process will result in a healthier community just the same. And that’s worth cheering about.