Using the Elizabeth Public Library, a place where residents can gather for resources and education in a safe, secure environment, as the “hub” for our community, the Shaping Elizabeth coalition premiered “A Better You in 2018,” an event that is not just a “Health Fair”, but a larger community forum. Our partners began planning last year for January’s launch, and intend to present this program six times throughout this year, focusing on the greatest needs shared by community members, as well as provide follow-up support using texts and emails. The Elizabeth Public Library received funding from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Mid Atlantic Region’s Health Information Awareness Award to support this work.
Building on our community connections, we plan to engage older adults, new (emerging) adults, Gen X and their families in five health areas: Medical Care, Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, Family Wellness and Mental Health. We’ve designed the program to be interactive and foster open communication. Participants were arranged into groups of six to eight people, and they rotated to each health area in 10-minute segments led by our agency partners. Each participant received stickers to write down their needs and ideas. They then posted their feedback on large comment boards around the library. Two “A Better You in 2018” forums were held at two library branches during that January weekend. Children’s activities were also part of the forum. More than 50 people attended between the two days, ranging from teens to older adults. The forums attracted English-speaking and Spanish-speaking community members. We collected data, conducted evaluations and began to create a community contact list.
Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados and Shaping Elizabeth Project Manager Alane McCahey welcomed attendees and explained the importance of seeking out and listening to residents’ “voices” in our coalition’s ongoing work to impact health and equity in Elizabeth. Following that, they asked the participants to spread the word and invite their friends, family and co-workers to future forums.
From the data we received, we identified several needs, including: additional resources for healthy foods, meal planning, especially to support families who don’t have much time for food preparation; greater access to hearing, vision and dental screenings, and additional resources for families who feel isolated. Other feedback from the participants said their doctors do not give information when diagnosing diabetes & hypertension, and isolation exists among all ages.
With plans to host additional forums, as well as several specific programs to address the concerns expressed, we are committed to continuing these aspects of the health conversation in our community.
Watch Mayor Bollwage’s interview with Shaping Elizabeth partners Corey Wu-Jung of the Gateway Family YMCA, Roselena Twyne of Trinitas and Robert Barbanell of the Elizabeth Public Library to learn more about the work of building a Culture of Health in Elizabeth.