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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Perspectives (May 2016)

Sara Merz, Director

Sara Merz, Director

Last month, AHA hosted the founder of Live Well San Diego to speak with 185 elected leaders, hospital CEOs, business and nonprofit leaders. Nick Macchione, San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Director and a national leader in health work, talked about this 10-year initiative changing the health behaviors and improving the health of San Diego County residents. Wake County elected and staff leadership joined in hosting and discussions with other local leaders.

A number of us continued this conversation on the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Inter-City Visit to San Diego the following week. I was fortunate to meet with the staff who implemented Nick’s vision, beginning over 6 years ago, to learn more about their early steps. I was struck by the messaging (not limited to “health”) and the integration of public safety into the initiative.

The simplicity of the message was key to building support – “3 behaviors lead to 4 diseases which contribute to more than 50% of deaths in San Diego County.” This is World Health Organization data and is not limited to San Diego – it’s true here in Wake County, too.

A video of Nick’s presentation is posted on AHA’s website. If you were unable to join us, I encourage you to watch the video over your lunch hour one day this week—I think you’ll find it inspiring and informative. The Powerpoint presentation slide notes and videos are also posted.

After Nick’s presentation, we all had an opportunity to talk in small groups. Key themes from the table conversations included:

  • Many things like Live Well San Diego are happening in Wake – and we have an opportunity to align these efforts
  • A clear, simple message and branding are needed
  • Backbone organization needed
  • Establishing ROI—show how everyone benefits
  • Choose data to use
  • Communication—tell the story to increase engagement w/broader community

One of the things we heard from Nick, and his staff repeated to me, was that San Diego County served as the overall backbone of the initiative, and a nonprofit very similar to AHA serves as the backbone on childhood obesity, both contracting with the County and raising funds from other sources. Both continue in these roles today.

There is strong desire for unity and next steps, and AHA looks forward to continuing to lead, along with our partners and allies in this work, to improve health and quality of life in Wake County. Together we have momentum on this, and we look forward to the continued conversation.

Thanks to those who participated and contributed ideas and energy in this community conversation. And huge thanks to our sponsors, including Wake County, WakeMed, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Marbles Kids Museum, Great Harvest Bread Company, as well as our presenting partners, YMCA of the Triangle, United Way of the Greater Triangle, Wake County Cooperative Extension, Wake County SmartStart and YouthThrive.

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