Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index

March 21, 2015

By Katie Merritt

I’d like to reflect on the importance of early community involvement in Commitments to Action.

Having a public health background, the Globalization of Chronic Disease working session on Saturday caught my attention at the CGI U conference. The discussion with Thuy Yu, Doyin Oluwole, Phil Southerland, and Sonya Shin inspired reflections about my commitment to characterize food access inequity in the District. Sonya Shin had moved to Arizona to address chronic disease via food access within the Najavo Nation and empower the community to be independent and gain their own food sovereignty. Fixing a biological problem such as chronic diseases with social or behavioral solutions is a common strategy among public health interventions. It is key in addressing food access inequities.

Dr. Shin’s story reminded me of Community-Based Participatory Research, a type of epidemiology that partners with communities during the design phase of the study. These studies build trust between the community and researchers as they share a similar mission, are transparent with their results, and leverage shared resources. Speaking to Dr. Shin following the session she recommended religious sites as a portal to approach communities and build relationships. Characterizing a baseline of sustainable food access within a District will just be a first step before interventions can measure change in food access. As my partners and I prepare to start our data collection this spring, it has become clear to me the importance of involving the communities of Wards 5, 7, and 8 as we expand our pilot and consider next steps for a complete assessment. For instance, what information is this population interested in knowing that can help them make healthier consumer choices given the access in their neighborhood? In closing I would like to share a phrase that summarizes this observation as advice to fellow commitment makers interested in making change in a community other than their own: “If the problem is in the community, the solution is in the community.”

Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index

March 20, 2015

By Johanna Podrasky

Vision. Inspiration. Drive. These are just a few words that describe the speakers and attendees I interacted with at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference. There was a breadth of great ideas to solve problems, many of which have common ties. This brings to light the importance of communicating ideas and vision to one another in order to be effective in solving problems together. The sessions throughout the conference helped bring together individuals with shared interests to spur discussion.

A valuable panel discussed monitoring and evaluating your results, which brought conceptual and real world examples to light. It highlighted that evaluation is not only important during and after an intervention, but establishing an accurate and meaningful baseline is also vital beforehand. This framework underlines the importance of the Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index commitment. This project will provide information about the current foods available in Washington, D.C. to provide baseline information that can be used for targeted interventions in the future. One challenge in the process of establishing a baseline is ensuring consistency and reliability in data collection. Since food systems have been similarly evaluated in Baltimore and forthcoming in Montgomery County, Maryland, this provides a template for evaluation techniques.

During a panel on urban green spaces, I was struck by Roger Horne’s thoughts – stating that if we’re solving problems right, we should be working ourselves out of a job. Too often organizations base their vision on the status quo or on what funding has been used for in the past. It’s important to instead be forward thinkers and chart new vision to solve challenging problems. Being out of a job means a job well done – and greater opportunities for inspiration and change to come.