Our entire community is stronger when everyone enjoys good health and well-being. Improving the community’s health is one of United Way of Greater Nashua’s three “impact areas” for community investment. Numerous organizations and individuals who also support a healthy community have come together to launch One Greater Nashua, a coalition focused on improving health outcomes through enhanced social inclusion and integration efforts. I am happy to co-chair the coalition with Jared Barbosa, soccer coach at Nashua High School South.
Of the things that influence health outcomes, social factors account for 40 percent of a person’s health. If people feel more connected to their community and have better opportunity to participate and thrive, we expect over time they will have better health outcomes and the entire community will be stronger for it. Research by the NH Center for Public Policy Studies shows that health outcomes vary markedly by demographic group, with people of color having the least favorable results. Our coalition seeks to reverse those trends.
Our roots extend back to a “community conversation” among area leaders convened by United Way and Nashua Community College in September 2012. From that discussion among elected officials, business CEOs, non-profit agency directors, school administrators, healthcare providers and others, a common issue emerged. Many people – including some who have moved to Greater Nashua recently – have a lot to offer but do not feel connected to the community due to language or cultural barriers. When the Endowment for Health announced a request for proposals to improve health equity, it presented an opportunity to bring people together around a common goal: to improve the health of our community by breaking down barriers and increasing social integration.
The coalition formed early last year and was awarded a $10,000 planning grant from the Endowment for Health, which also is supporting health equity efforts in Concord, Laconia, and Manchester. With United Way of Greater Nashua as its fiscal agent and convener, and NH Listens as its facilitator, One Greater Nashua developed a plan to improve health equity through increased leadership capacity, economic vitality, and community engagement.
The Endowment for Health recently awarded One Greater Nashua a three-year, $60,000 grant to implement the plan, and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has committed to match that amount. United Way of Greater Nashua is providing staff time and $10,000 for each of the three years. Additionally, coalition members are committing in-kind time and expertise valued at $42,000 annually.
One Greater Nashua’s plan is a three-pronged approach to improve health outcomes by reducing social barriers and enhancing inclusion efforts in our area:
- Youth Leadership and Family Engagement – Empower youth with leadership skills and opportunities, and encourage better understanding of different cultures. Partners include:
Nashua School District (focus on middle school students and families)
Welcoming New Hampshire
Youth-focused local organizations that offer leadership development and connections to community
- Key Gateways and Cultural Navigators – Help orient newcomers to the community and connect them to learning opportunities as they discover ways to share their unique skills, talent and ideas. Partners include:
Adult Learning Center
Nashua Public Library
Nashua Community College and WorkReadyNH
- A Diverse Business and Civic Network –Encourage diverse civic leadership and community engagement. Leverage the strengths and enhance opportunities that showcase Greater Nashua’s growing diversity, which will attract young people and professionals to our region. Partners include:
Leadership Greater Nashua
iUGO (Greater Nashua’s young professionals organization)
Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce
Nashua Community College
Positive Street Art
Gate City Initiative of the Mayor’s Cultural Connections Committee
The coalition is convening three goal groups to implement these three pathways.
“We plan to develop a program for middle school students that builds leadership skills, including listening to other voices and giving back to the community,” says Scott Jaquith, vice principal of Fairgrounds Middle School in Nashua and co-chair of the Youth Leadership and Family Engagement group. “We will build on the strength of our community’s network of after-school programs.”
The second goal group will establish a mentor program to support newcomers in becoming active in their communities. The program will be based on the “Cultural Navigators” model implemented by the Hartford, CT, Public Library. “Many people who are new to Greater Nashua have a wealth of experience, skills, and new ideas that can help our community move forward,” says Jennifer McCormack, director of the Nashua Public Library. “We’re excited about creating opportunities for newcomers to discover all that Greater Nashua has to offer and how they best can contribute.”
The civic network goal group will focus on enhancing diversity in Leadership Greater Nashua. “By engaging leaders from diverse backgrounds, we broaden the spectrum of voices that inform local decisions,” says Chris Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. “This will enrich our community and make us more economically competitive.”
One Greater Nashua currently has 49 active participants and we are looking to expand. If you’re interested in helping grow a stronger community, please email me or call me at 603-864-0203.
Liz Fitzgerald is United Way of Greater Nashua’s Director of Community Impact and Co-Chair of One Greater Nashua.