Committed Community Members Moving Positive Changes Forward with LiveWell NKY

By Lea Beck, Health Educator LiveWell NKY

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
–Margaret Mead

This is very true for many successes in all of our public health work. The LiveWell NKY community coalitions are no different.

LiveWell NKY is a movement of community-wide initiatives designed to improve the health of Northern Kentucky residents through changes in policy, systems and environments. The Health Department supports LiveWell NKY, as does The Regional Northern Kentucky Alliance (formerly Skyward) and St. Elizabeth.

The path for LiveWell NKY has had its turns and twists. Yet one constant has been the committed coalition members who want to improve their community. Some of these members came to the coalition with what could be described as a vague interest in healthy living. As the year and a half has passed, many of the folks’ interest has evolved into bolder goals, like, “We ought to make our parks smoke free.” It is amazing. It happens in different communities with very different individuals.

Here are a couple examples:

Stacy Rich-Grabow in Fort Mitchell is a stay-at-home mom who is reserved. She liked the idea of a community garden and joined the coalition. Stacy didn’t like meetings and planning and told the group, “If you get around to putting your hands in the dirt, call me.” They did. Stacy returned after the coalition developed a healthy eating action plan. She presented her garden concept to Fort Mitchell City Council. They approved the entire plan and chose to locate it next to their city administration building.

Brad Bolte, an athletic trainer for St. Elizabeth, came to the first LiveWell Florence recruitment meeting and listened. Brad’s in the business of keeping student athletes physically active. LiveWell wanted adults moving, and he found a way to do just that. He and other athletic trainers in Boone County encouraged parents of high school athletes to get out of their cars during a team practice and walk a mile loop. Now this idea is becoming a funded LiveWell Florence strategy.

This simple idea of marked walking routes on school grounds may become the norm. Just think of it, the week before rival high schools compete, their athletic booster organizations could be battling out the most miles walked.

Matt Williams, coffee shop owner and co-chair for the LiveWell Ludlow coalition, has garnered partner agreements with Ludlow-Bromley Garden Club and Ludlow Independent Schools to build a garden at the Ludlow Senior Center. LiveWell JumpStart funds will pay for the installation. This will be sustained by the garden club’s guidance, and the seniors’ and students’ maintenance work.

The older adults will love this. When the Freestore Foodbank donates produce to the Ludlow Senior Center, it is literally swooped up in minutes. The garden is at a prime location for Ludlow’s most vulnerable.

Stacie Strotman is the Director of Covington Partners. She began collaborating with the Health Department for Covington tobacco-free schools long before LiveWell NKY was formed. Seven years later, a policy was approved. As of Aug. 23 (the first day of the 2017-2018 school year), adults are not permitted to use tobacco on school grounds.

What is great about the LiveWell NKY movement is public health efforts are contagious. Now LiveWell Florence members want the same success. They are asking Stacie for her group’s strategies. Fort Mitchell and Ludlow passed tobacco free parks policies and others are following.

LiveWell NKY and the American Heart Association developed a two-year partnership to create marked walking routes in the LiveWell communities. MedPace is the financial sponsor. Health Educators Kelly Schwegman and Elizabeth Steffer are working with coalition members to gain support from their city councils. Fort Mitchell City Council and Warsaw in Gallatin County have approved their routes. The LiveWell Ludlow coalition and the LiveWell Florence coalition will be presenting to their councils soon. The partnership will fund additional walking routes next year.

It’s exciting to see the LiveWell movement building in our communities. For more information on LiveWell, visit https://livewellnky.org/ or find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LiveWellNKY/.