Hey Honey this is what I do: Citizen-Centered Health Promotion

Live Well Lauderhill

“Going Places” Photo Credit: Kevon Bachelor

My primary audience for this post is my husband (17 years next month!) because he unfortunately has to answer this question for others all the time, “what does your wife do, again?”.  He’s actually not convinced I work at all because I just hang out with people I really enjoy, learn about their hopes, dreams & challenges, help them tell stories about their community’s goals, go on a bunch of walking tours, learn, learn, learn, present ideas to policy makers, host a community dance party or two, present about it at some conference, write a few grants, then take a nap.  It’s all pretty messy, super fun, and keeps the lights on around here.

So honey, as I start up another project in Broward County, FL with amazing colleagues at the Urban Health Solutions/Urban Health Partnership, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Healthy Community Zone project thought I’d write about why someone hires me and what we’re trying to accomplish together.

I work with leaders to build healthy communities through policy, system, and environmental change. (the previous sentence is an example of “grant vomit”).  I like to explain environment as a fast running river.  If you jump into the fast running river you can swim against the current and go upstream.  It will be difficult and you will have to be committed and have the skills and strength to persevere.  It’s not impossible, but very tough.

Most people won’t swim against the river, or they will for only a short time.  This is the experience of an individual living in a community.  If their community supports health it may have safe places to walk or bike to errands, work, and school.  It may have anti-tobacco policies in place.  It may have access to affordable healthy foods and provide healthy meals at schools. It may have limited advertising for unhealthy products.  Individuals can still choose sedentary behavior, unhealthy foods, tobacco usage, and other negative health behaviors, but they will be less convenient than the healthy choice.

Changing the direction of that fast moving river to support healthy behaviors is what policy, system, and environmental change is all about.  We say, our goal is to make the healthy choice the easy and affordable choice.  Notice, it’s not about taking away choices.  It’s changing the current so that as we go with the flow we are moving towards healthier behaviors and communities.  It’s what the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation calls building a Culture of Health.

I don’t make this stuff up.  Take a look at Citizen-Centered Health Promotion:  Building Collaborations to Facilitate Healthy Living published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine and available on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation website.  Citizen-centered means looking at how an individual’s choices are impacted by all of the environments she/he interacts with.  Our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and larger communities all impact what choices individuals have.  People exist in environments. Communities across the country are recognizing that they have to build a network of these environments to support individual health.

That’s what I do, help people build that network.  Here’s my job description below, found on page S44 of the article:

 A third party is often necessary to convene potential partners, solve logistic challenges, and pool resources to facilitate collaboration. For the majority of success stories involving effective community partnerships, third parties supported by philanthropies or public funding—a community organization or research institution—were key to “connecting the dots.” To make such collaborations scalable and sustainable over time in ordinary settings, where grant support and research investigators are lacking, an infrastructure for third-party support must be available to help communities undertake citizen-centered redesign. Each community must have access to an entity for on-the-ground assistance in building partnerships and designing solutions to help citizens sustain healthy behaviors.”

I build the coalition and help the coalition build the plan.  I basically do three things for communities in this role:

Translation–I am a generalist and I know enough about most sectors that impact the individual to translate among different groups (schools, transportation, housing, business/private sector, higher education, community based organizations, food systems, public health, etc.)  In the article above it’s called “connecting the dots“.

Boil-Down–I believe in using simple language and strive for clarity.  I muddle through “grant-vomit”, business jargon, academic yammering and all other forms of scrambled communication.  I refuse to use the word “stakeholders” (which is just a personal preference, I’m sure you’ve got your pet peeves in this category as well.)  Communities just want to be happier and healthier.  It’s complicated but requires simplicity.

Draw the Picture–Everything is about painting the picture.  We need to see it, experience it, touch it, taste it, smell it, and process it.  Yes, we need the 20 (or 200!) page document that backs up our work, but we need a picture of where we’re going and what it will look like.  That comes from pulling people together, learning, and drawing the picture…and that is what I do.

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Crawfords talk Physical Activity on The Drive


I love the chance to go on The Drive with Jack Ebling with Tom Crawford (yes, relation!).  This week we were talking the importance of physical activity and its role in alleviating arthritis pain.  I work with the Michigan Arthritis Collaborative Partnership and the YMCAs Enhance®Fitness program to promote this message.  Contact the YMCA of Lansing to find a program near you

Hear our chat:



#MiYMCA State Alliance of Michigan YMCAs Healthy Living March Newsletter


The March Healthy Living newsletter is out.  Please share with staff, participants, volunteers, and partners as we work together to build a healthier Michigan!


Check out some of the great work happening in Michigan YMCAs to build healthy communities through evidence based programs and partnership.

Please send me your content submissions for an upcoming edition.  I’d love to feature programs at your Y & innovative partnerships within the community.  I also invite you to be a guest columnist.  Tell your story!


#EnhanceFitness National Instructor Newsletter & Save the Date


Check out the EnhanceFitness National Instructor newsletter https://c.na13.content.force.com/servlet/servlet.EmailAttachmentDownload?q=fQZIU97MBIJj0DrJ3av1FTBeXX0CpF0s4ZgIRQJ7zgu10Z7x3Lc9deXhDxIgksajDYTopblEI%2BDBzPoK9UL9Nw%3D%3D  great updates about Enhance®Fitness partnerships with ACE (American Council on Exercise) and Power Music.  Exciting industry partnerships to support instructor development.  Awesome work Paige Denison and team to develop these resources!!

Serious Instructor Training

Serious Instructor Training

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Team is planning the 2015 Michigan Enhance®Fitness Conference.  Coordinators, Instructors, and aspiring instructors please join us for a day of fun and learning at  in Lansing at LCC West Campus Tuesday June 16th and instructor trainings during Michigan Enhance®Fitness Week!

2014 EnhanceFitness Conference National Kidney Foundation of Michigan delegation

2014 Enhance®Fitness Conference National Kidney Foundation of Michigan delegation

We are building a great team in Michigan to deliver and sustain this program.  Look for a two year training calendar soon as we work together to build a healthier Michigan!

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Builders Series: Kristie King, National Kidney Foundation of Michigan


The Builders Series profiles people hard at work building healthier communities.  Meet Kristie King of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan http://www.nkfm.org/ Nominate someone for our next builder’s series profile in the comments below or connect with me on Twitter @andicrawford

Kristie King (kneeling L of center) w/ NKFM colleagues at the Enhance®Fitness Statewide Conference

Kristie King (kneeling L of center) w/ NKFM colleagues at the Enhance®Fitness Statewide Conference

Kristie King

National Kidney Foundation of Michigan

Senior Program Manager

I first met Kristie King in 2008 when the Michigan Department of Community Health was investing in Michigan communities to implement a portfolio of evidence based programs to build the health of older adults.  She and I were both working on the delivery of Enhance®Fitness, a community and evidence based exercise program for older adults.

Since that time, the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan has done an amazing job of building relationships with community partner sites and now has 25 locations in Southeast Michigan delivering this program.  Kristie and her team have trained over 100 instructors, many who are community members who came to the program as participants.  As challenging as it is to administer this program (train and manage staff, manage budgets, and recruit participants), Kristie will tell you the most difficult challenge is building relationships and encouraging community members to  participate in this life-changing program.

What does your work at the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan entail?

“In addition to overseeing the Enhance®Fitness program I am the lead liaison for the Inkster Partnership for A Healthier Community https://www.facebook.com/InksterPartnershipForAHealthierCommunity.

This coalition of nearly 40 organizations and residents works to support residents of Inkster in adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors.

While I’m not a resident of Inkster, I’ve worked hard to develop trust within the community.  Inkster has a rich history as a community of predominantly African American residents who settled in the area because of work opportunities at the Ford Motor Company.  Policies and practices restricted Dearborn to white employees and Inkster became a home for African Americans.  Inkster is a proud community working to address some critical community challenges, including the closing of their school district in recent years due to budget shortfalls.  Students now travel to four surrounding districts.  There is no grocery store within the community, leading to challenges with healthy food access.  How do you build a community with no school system and no grocery stores?  The coalition is working to develop garden programs, healthy food options, and access to health programs.  However, this is challenging because health is not top of mind for some residents.  Residents are concerned with meeting their basic needs; jobs, housing, education, and food.

My challenge is to use the resources that the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and put them to the best use directly in the community.  This means working in partnership with community leaders.  People are not interested in my degrees or credentials.  In fact, sometimes those things prevent building trust.  You have to work with people.  As one pastor told me ‘We’re putting our trust in you, Kristie.  We’re not trusting your organization, the state health department, or anyone else.’  This is the key, delivering on what you say you’re going to do for people and communities. It cannot be short-term.”

Besides money, what is your biggest challenge?

Kristie:  “Money is not my biggest challenge.  The biggest barrier is getting to people who need these services the most.  How can we get people focused on taking care of their health when they are worried about rent, food, electricity, childcare, and education?  It takes really focused work to say, ‘let’s look at your resources and see how we can put them to use differently’.  That’s hard.  My approach with partners is to say, ‘This isn’t about an exchange of money, this is an exchange of resources’.  This approach communicates clearly that this isn’t about me helping you with funding I have, it’s us working together to bring about a change with what we all bring to the table; people, resources, space, commitment, and leadership.

What do you need more of?

“I need more staff, more committed people in all levels of the organization & community understanding what we’re trying to do.  The number of people in the community we’ve been able to serve are great, but it’s not enough.  We have to be in it for the long haul to really make a difference in people’s lives.  I make a lot of people mad because I demand that you be committed, to the people and to the program—this is long term change”.

Who’s work inside or outside of your industry or area of focus do you admire?

Kristie:  “There’s an organization on the Eastside called VODI-IMPACT http://voicesofdetroitinitiative.org/?page_id=583 it’s in what Detroiters call the ‘Old Holy Cross Hospital’.  I’ve worked with their Director Gayle Walters, who is actually transitioning away from this program as she’s relocating with her husband.  In the time we’ve worked together, we’re just kindred spirits.  You would think she has an MPH or a MSW, but she actually has a marketing background.  She is a master collaborator with many different partners.  She completely understands the social determinants of health and knows how to bring people together to get all kinds of services working together under one roof for residents.  VODI-Impact’s work needs to be studied and replicated—it’s just amazing”.