Listening for a Culture of Health

In early 2016 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation approached Kate Seely with the idea of conduction a National Listening Tour about creating a Culture of Health. For several years RWJF had been developing a Culture of Health emphasis as one way to counter the slide towards less and less health in the United States. Kate turned to Simone Poutnik, Bob Stilger, and Zulma Patarroyo from the NewStories Team for help.

Through a number of conversations wit RWJF, we agreed to go out into West Virginia, Cherokee Nation, and New Mexico as well as Phoenix, Oakland and Stockton to listen to people who were already stepping forward to create their version of a Culture of Health.

People know what to do to create a Culture of Health. WE know what to do. Part of what we know is that there’s a big difference between health care and medical services.  And because so many people have stopped taking care of their own health — for a whole variety of reasons — an unsustainable burden has been placed on the people and facilities that provide medical services. What people at the local level know is that everything is related – unemployment, drug abuse, transportation, child care, housing, food access, economic development, nutrition, exercise, places to gather.  And everything needs to be kept in view even as they choose one point of entry to make an impact.

What was common across all of the areas we’ve spent time in? A number of things, but it is community gardens that stand out.  Every community that is serious about taking care of its own health has a system of community gardens which grow into many things — teaching kids where real food comes from and how to grow it, helping families learn about meal preparation and nutrition, building beloved community by gardening together, putting good food on the table and more.

Download the beautifully illustrated report here.