Through a diverse array of assessment projects and deployment of 10 promotoras, Denver’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities partnership trained emerging resident leaders, built new networks of relationships, increased meeting attendance and participation, and unearthed new problem-solving methods. Efforts to support inclusive decision making and build relationships with agency partners secured powerful results in the city’s southwest neighborhoods, particularly in parks and urban agriculture. The partnership influenced timing, design and investment in plans, policies and capital projects.
A rich immigrant history of Latino, Jewish, Italian and Vietnamese residents define the west-side community of Denver. Since 2003, Somali and Somali-Bantu refugees also call this home. The resilience and diversity of cultures that are found in these neighborhoods is a mosaic unlike anywhere else in Denver. Economic challenges and barriers due to language and culture are just a few hurdles that residents are overcoming to seek the freedom and opportunity offered by life in the United States. For these hardworking residents of humble means, each day starts with disadvantages, including limited access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, safe parks and recreation facilities, and reliable, consistent transportation.
Together, it all adds up quickly—to an unhealthy environment. Overweight and obesity rates are far higher here than in Denver as a whole. Yet the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative, headed by Denver Public Health and powered by a strong community partnership, is on a mission to increase access to healthy food and places to be physically active in West Denver and the city as a whole by transforming policies and the environment. “There’s a lot of positive change underway, and communities should be primed to use the improvements they help create. All of our successes depend on and reflect strong community engagement and the very strong partnership we have built together, including the City Council members, various non-profits and community organizations, and residents,” says project director Jennifer Wieczorek.
As partners work toward a “health in all policies” approach in Denver, Jennifer is confident that they are having a lasting influence on the way business is done. “With the wide array of opportunities and potential partners in Denver, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities has provided us with a great opportunity to strengthen the web of relationships, projects and policies that will continue to improve quality of life in West Denver over the long term.”
For more information, view a short film about their work.