Regional Community Coalitions Marrying Public Health, Planning: Plan4health Partners Improving Health

By McGill, Natalie | The Nation's Health, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Regional Community Coalitions Marrying Public Health, Planning: Plan4health Partners Improving Health


McGill, Natalie, The Nation's Health


IN LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS of the metropolitan Boston area, corner stores may be the closest food option compared with a supermarket, but they are not always likely to be the healthiest.

But thanks to a joint APHA and American Planning Association initiative, a coalition of regional planners and health advocates launched the Greater Boston Association of Convenience Stores, an alliance of storeowners working on solutions to sell fresh food at affordable prices.

Plan4Health, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supports the creation of coalitions led by planning association chapters and APHA-affiliated state and regional public health associations to improve physical activity and nutrition in their communities.

The coalition in Boston was just one of 18 in the first group of participants in Plan4Health, which kicked off in 2015.

"Many new partnerships and expanded initiatives were developed to improve the health of each community involved and the impact will be long-lasting, Kimberly Moore Smith, MHSA, director of APHA's Affiliate affairs told The Nation's Health. "We look forward to sharing the promising practices of cohort one broadly to assist other communities looking to create policy, system and environmental change."

The association of corner stores is being structured to provide business owners with technical assistance and resources, such as assistance in getting certified to accept Women, Infants and Children program benefits and accounting.

The work helps strengthen businesses while offering more healthy foods to communities, said Lola Omolodun, a public health planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a part of Boston's Inner Core Community Health Coalition.

"A lot of the stores we work with are interested in carrying healthier food items but have other issues that are higher priority," Omolodun told The Nation's Health.

The Plan4Health coalitions encompass a diverse set of areas, from neighborhoods to counties and from rural to urban, said APHA member Anna Ricklin, MHS, AICP, manager of the American Planning Association's Planning and Community Health Center. …

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