State: New Hampshire
Client(s): HNH Foundation
Services: Health Care & Public Health Planning, Training & Technical Assistance, Health Systems Transformation
Technical Expertise: Chronic Disease Management, Healthy Communities, State and Local Public Health
Rates of overweight and obesity among New Hampshire children and adults have steadily increased for the past decade. Overweight children are at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and emotional problems and are more likely to grow up to be obese adults. Overweight and obese adults are at increased risk for chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease and some cancers. Adults who are obese have a 10- to 50-percent increased risk of premature death compared with healthy weight individuals. To stem this epidemic, a partnership of foundations and state agencies in New Hampshire engaged JSI to develop a statewide plan for promoting healthy eating and active living to improve health and quality of life for all NH residents. JSI facilitated a process led by a statewide Steering Committee composed of representatives from schools, health care industry, businesses, communities, and government.
Research shows that a multi-sector approach to promoting healthy eating and active living is most effective in supporting individuals to achieve improved wellness. By targeting interventions where individuals live, work and play, the HEAL Initiative seeks to create and support an environment that will make it easier for New Hampshire residents to select healthy food options and have opportunities to be physically active. Priority sectors for intervention include:
- Schools shape childrens’ current and lifelong health and dietary patterns. Schools reach children, youth, young adults, faculty and staff, and family and community members and are an important setting for educating the entire population.
- Health care providers (e.g., behavioral health, primary care, tertiary care, etc.), health insurers, professional organizations and health professional schools support prevention education, treatment and referral to health promotion services.
- Community agencies (e.g. social service, faith, and civic organizations) and municipalities (e.g., town planners, parks and recreation, town offices, elected officials, public works) reach people where they gather, shop and play. Municipalities can foster physical activity by increasing community connectivity, providing infrastructure that supports alternative means of transportation, preserving open space, providing safe, attractive, and accessible recreational facilities, and sponsoring community programming.
- Worksites reach a large number of adults. A healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Employers can reinforce and promote healthy behaviors through educational programs, policy and environmental actions that support wellness.
- The food (grocers, restaurants, farmer s markets) and recreation (for-profit sports and fitness centers, municipal recreation programs and sports retailers) industries play a critical role in providing an environment which supports healthy eating and active living.
A specific set of policy, educational and programmatic interventions was identified for each sector drawn from the literature of best and promising practices. A statewide conference was convened with over 200 participants to present the recommended interventions and engage partners in implementation of recommended strategies. Performance measures were developed for priority interventions to monitor effectiveness of implementation efforts.
JSI worked with funders to ensure implementation of the recommendations detailed in the HEAL Action Plan including establishing a HEAL Home to coordinate implementation efforts and a Community Grants Program to fund local collaboratives to implement cross-sector interventions.