The Greenbrier County Health Alliance began as a community engagement strategy that originated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Center for Rural and Community Health with grant funding from West Virginia Clinical Translational Science Institute.
An Alliance core planning group began meeting monthly in October 2014 to develop a process for collaborative networking. The group's goal was to define priority issues and build consensus for developing intervention activities to address those issues. The group agreed that interventions would intend to improve health and well-being of all county residents and would focus on socioeconomic factors, physical environment, health behaviors and clinical partnerships.
A key component to the Alliance coordinated approach for community health outreach is the use of community ambassadors. In 2015, five communities participated in the Ambassador Mini-grant project that was funded by the WV Bureau for Public Health with 1305 grant funds. Ambassadors were identified because they have an interest in improving their communities' health. Local Community Ambassadors became trained to facilitate a process to identify a local need and implement a mini-grant project. Mini-grant project implementation was successful across the county and helped define pathways for future coordination of grassroots engagement. At the end of the year, Ambassadors came together with Alliance planning group members to evaluate and celebrate the projects. Mini-grant projects included: a mobile farmers market in Alderson; a summer food program in Ronceverte; 3 diabetes self-management workshops in Lewisburg, Rainelle and Ronceverte; 6 healthy activities called Williamsburg on Wellness (WOW!) and a community garden between Rupert and Rainelle. Management of future projects will build on successes and lessons learned. Projects must in some way, "make the healthy choice an easy choice" and promote cooperation and partnerships, not competition.
Simultaneously, the planning group developed an organizational structure to become a non-profit organization and received non-profit designation in November 2015. A newly established board of directors and 4 taskforce work groups have been defined to: 1) Expand the community ambassador program; 2) Increase capacity to sustain evidence based self-management community workshops; 3) Develop an Alliance webpage and digital asset map of county health resources; and 4) Aggregate local foods to help meet local needs.
Early in 2016, proposals were submitted for a 2 year Benedum Grant and for an AmeriCorps Member to assist with coordination of community efforts. Both proposals were funded and in July of 2016 the Live Well Greenbrier project began.