For the past couple of years a group from Greenbrier County has been meeting regularly to plan ways to improve health opportunities for people across the county. Early on, the group discussed the inequitable distribution of resources across the county and the barriers faced in isolated outlying communities compared to the wide variety of healthy opportunities for resident living in the county seat of Lewisburg.
The group came to the following conclusions:
- Each of the remote communities is unique;
- Each community has leaders that care about improving the health of their families and neighbors;
- Establishing two-way communication with leaders in isolated communities could create a valuable network to support healthy change from within.
These early discussions led to the Alliance Ambassador project. Ambassadors were carefully chosen for their interest in making their community a better place to live and for their wiliness to participate in a countywide health initiative. Ambassadors were asked what they would like to do to make it easier for their community to become healthier and were given networking opportunities to express their ideas, get engaged, and learn from others. They were also given a menu of trainings and leadership opportunities they could choose to participate in.
Community conversation began to find common ground between what the communities wanted to do and the resources the Greenbrier County Health Alliance could offer them. With support from the Benedum Foundation, mini-grant funds were made available and projects were defined. The Alliance is now working with sixteen ambassadors from eight communities to support them as we learn together and accomplish local health goals.
The Alliance is invested in taking the time with to build a grassroots engagement of communities, working together with a network of stakeholders to define our values and vision. We are investing in local leadership to engage communities in problem solving and decision-making processes to affect their own well-being. We are establishing relationships and building trust to help mobilize healthy community action. We believe that if given a few simple tools and support, individuals and communities can find solutions to the barriers they face and improve their own health.