Building Elizabeth’s Next Generation of Leaders

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Shaping Elizabeth Community Health Initiative

Shaping Elizabeth (SE) held its Passport to Health Celebration in November 2019. This culminating event celebrated community members’ journeys in taking greater control over their health throughout 2019. 

Throughout the year, quarterly community events featured health screenings and an overview of a specific topic provided by health experts. These events, sponsored by partners such as the Gateway Family YMCA, the City of Elizabeth, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Lifelong Elizabeth, and others, provided residents with a deeper dive into building skills in areas such as healthy cooking, physical activity and stress management. Since January, 68 programs have been presented through Shaping Elizabeth’s Passport to Health initiative, impacting more than 950 participants.

During the Celebration event, participants shared that the Passport to Health programming helped them either lose or maintain their weight, and increase their awareness of their blood pressure. Participants also shared their personal accomplishments such as drinking more water, taking their blood pressure medication regularly, increasing their vegetable intake and walking more.

Shaping Elizabeth is encouraging community members to continue their journeys and expand their reach. SE is offering mini-grants to promote community action and leadership in these priority areas: access to healthy foods, physical activity, clinical care, mental health, and school wellness. Sustainable projects involving policy, systems, and environmental changes are encouraged.  Examples include, but are not limited to, support for community gardens, physical activity equipment, safety or mental health advocacy, and systems for pantries/soup kitchens to enable greater fruit and vegetable distribution. A grant selection committee will determine the projects to be funded by year end.   

Next Generation Community Leaders and Shaping Elizabeth work together to promote access to Healthy Food  

Shaping Elizabeth is also fostering future leadership by serving as mentors to Groundwork Elizabeth’s Next Generation Community Leaders. SE’s Program Director met with the team in summer 2019 to share resources about food providers in Elizabeth in addition to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and federally funded nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch/Breakfast Programs and the Summer Feeding Program. The Next Generation Leaders helped support SE’s push to promote the Summer Feeding Program while they conducted SNAP eligibility screenings. The team attended a SE coalition meeting and volunteered at the Passport to Health Celebration.  Future plans include having a Next Generation Community Leader on our Grants Selection Committee and providing input into our social media strategies.

Top photo: Participants share their Passport to Health journeys at Shaping Elizabeth’s November celebration. Bottom photo: Next Generation Community Leaders and Shaping Elizabeth work together to promote access to healthy food.
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Corey Wu-Jung
The Gateway Family YMCA