It Really Is All About Relationships

Jul 17, 2018 | Guest Author

Written by Shelly Wells
Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, New York

In business, you don’t sell the competitor’s product; you sell your product – you want to prosper. In the non-profit or public health sector, you work together. What? Who gets the profit, the prize, the prosperity? As it turns out, the profit is in the partnership; community health is the prize; and we all prosper.

In Chautauqua County, we are trying to reduce obesity in children and adults as a chronic disease prevention effort. We decided to focus on this because of public input and secondary health data from the NYSDOH. One of the interventions related to this focus is the promotion of Chautauqua Grown – a farm to institution procurement website designed and managed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County. Chautauqua Grown is an online resource to locate Chautauqua County local foods – farms, farmers markets, produce auction, wineries and breweries, restaurants and institutions, and specialty products. We will promote Chautauqua Grown, along with other strategies, to increase access to fresh local foods. Barriers in expanding promotion of Chautauqua Grown relate to staffing, time, reach, and funding. As we later recognized, a real barrier was time to build relationships.

In January, 2018, the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services (CCDHHS), Division of Public Health, in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Chautauqua County and Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN), applied for and received a funding opportunity for training and technical assistance to assist our rural team in applying a Social Determinants of Health lens to our planning efforts. As part of the NACCHO award, Strengthening Rural Local Health Department Capacity to Address Social Determinants of Health, a member from each partner agency attended an in-person workshop in Washington D.C. Because of the proximity of the destination (300 miles), we elected to drive to the training. This meant that we had a 6-hour car ride together. At the training, we had the opportunity to work intimately with each other, with other rural teams, and with NACCHO staff. Although not advertised, another part of the NACCHO award was time – time to build our relationship as a community team. We realized and appreciated that in our busy daily work lives, we don’t take the time to build relationships. During our Washington D.C. trip, we had the time to discuss, plan, reevaluate, and listen to one another.

Because of our intense training with NACCHO, together we drafted an action plan to promote Chautauqua Grown and improve the sustainability of the local food system. We developed two SMART objectives for our goal. One objective is to develop and implement a marketing campaign for Chautauqua Grown. As we discussed drawing additional community stakeholders into our strategy to promote Chautauqua Grown, we realized that we would most likely have better cooperation from the stakeholders if they understood the importance of the initiative to the community. This led to our second objective – to develop and implement a training to educate community agency partners about Chautauqua Grown and the many benefits it has for our community.

During our action planning, we determined that we were not marketing experts. The funding from the NACCHO award allowed us to collaborate with the New York State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Jamestown Community College and enroll in the Social Media Marketing Certificate training. After completion of the class, we will meet with an advisor from the SBDC to discuss what we learned and how we can apply it to promote our Chautauqua Grown initiative. We imagined a grand training with many community agencies in attendance. Once we returned to our busy lives, we realized that this might not be a realistic goal. A brainstorming session to reevaluate our goal led to the development of an online training platform. We will invite community agencies to log onto a training area (within the CCE website) and watch short videos about the Chautauqua Grown initiative explaining who, what, where, when, why, and how. After completing the training, agencies will print a certificate and request a variety of Chautauqua Grown promotional materials (purchased with the NACCHO award funding). It is our hope that the “at-your-own-pace” educational opportunity will expand the community knowledge of the Chautauqua Grown initiative.


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About Guest Author

NACCHO periodically invites guest authors to write first-person accounts of their work in public health. To submit your own story for consideration, please visit our form.

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