Six cities and counties were selected as Culture of Health Prize Winners by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The award-winning communities, selected from 250 across the nation, received a $25,000 cash prize for their accomplishments in promoting the health of residents and making positive social changes.

The winners this year were:

Brownsville, Texas: For the city’s collaborative efforts to improve residents' health, including home visits, free exercise programs, healthy living initiatives and the construction of a community garden.  The city was also recognized for its work on the Belden “rails-to-trails” project. According to local paper, The Brownsville Herald, the trail, which used to be an abandoned railroad line, runs nearly one mile and connects an area elementary school with a local park by way of a 10-foot-wide concrete path. The project cost approximately $650,000, paid for by state and federal grants along with a city sales tax collected through the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation. City Commissioner Dr. Rose Gowen told the RWJF the trail helps residents engage in seamless, active transportation – boosting activity levels and improving health.



Watch a video on Brownsville’s culture of health below:

Taos Pueblo, N.M.: For increasing access to healthcare through the Public Health Nursing Department; promoting exercise programs, especially among the elderly through the Taos Pueblo Fitness Program; improving childhood education as it pertains to health; and through its support of the Red Willow Cooperative, a farmers market and co-op to produce fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for the community. According to local paper Indian Country Today, The co-op employs a number of high school students and connects younger community members with the cycles of planning, preparing and growing crops to supply markets with produce.

Watch a video on Taos Pueblo’s vision for a healthier future below:


Williamson, W.Va.: For the construction of a community garden; the formation of the “Health Innovation Hub,” an event that connects local entrepreneurs with ideas for health-related business with community members; and the construction of a new Health and Wellness Clinic, a low-cost health center available to residents – many of whom were coal miners. “The Health and Wellness Clinic provides integrated, one-stop healthcare services at no charge or at a reduced cost,” according to city materials. This improves low-income residents’ access to health care. 



Watch a video on Williamson’s health improvements below:

Durham County, N.C.: For its efforts to reduce unemployment through increased education; by creating a more healthy environment by constructing bike infrastructure and a community garden; and for the Partnership for a Healthy Durham initiative, which has worked to bring medical resources to the community’s underserved residents. The partnership, under the purview of Durham County Department of Public Health, is a coalition of local organizations with the shared goal of “improving the physical, mental and social health and well-being of Durham’s residents,” according to program materials. The partnership currently has more than 500 active members.

Watch a video on Durham County’s health improvements below.


Buncombe County, N.C.: For empowering underserved communities through the Community Service Navigator program, which helps connect at-risk residents with local private and public resources; improving nutrition through efforts such as Rainbow In My Tummy, which helps instill healthy eating habits in children; and for its efforts to reduce poverty, such as a voluntary certification  program which promotes local businesses that pay employees living wages. According to program materials, a living wage is $11.85 an hour for all full- and part-time employees without health benefits or $10.35 an hour to those offered benefits. Certification is free to businesses paying these rates or higher, and more than 300 local businesses have participated in the program. According to the RWJF, economically empowering residents promotes positive health outcomes.



Watch a video about Buncombe County’s efforts below.


Spokane County, Wash.: For partnering with businesses to provide better jobs to residents; reducing dropout rates though an early warning system implemented in 2012 to identify at-risk students; mitigating adverse childhood experiences by training teachers and childcare workers to recognize warning signs; and boosting graduation rates though a series of efforts including extracurricular skill building sessions with young students – which has a measureable impact on health outcomes. “There are so many linkages between health and education,” Lyndia Wilson, Division Director at Spokane Regional Health District told RWJF. “Individuals who have more education are more likely to make better decisions about tobacco and alcohol, sexual activity and other risky behaviors. At the same time, better education makes you eligible for better-paying jobs that have health insurance, wellness programs, and other benefits.”

Watch a video on Spokane’s health efforts below.


If your community has been working to improve health outcomes, and you would like to apply for the 2015 awards, click here.

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