Healthier Communities Initiatives

Healthier Communities Initiatives

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The YMCA's Healthier Communities Initiatives (HCI) is built on the idea that local communities can work together to support healthy lifestyles through policies and strategies that bring healthy living within everyone's reach.

Inspiring Change In Communities

Nearly 200 Ys in 21 states have participated in HCI, focusing on the ways health and well-being are influenced by environments and the impact that public policy has on supporting change. Since 2004, with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with corporate and foundation donors, these initiatives helped reduce health disparities and chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease and lower healthcare costs for individuals through policy, systems and environmental changes, including:

  • Creating community linkages to provide access to critical chronic disease prevention programs
  • Making streets and sidewalks safer for active transportation
  • Helping families put nutritious food on the table by bringing farmers markets to neighborhoods where healthy food options are scarce
  • Improving the health of a generation of kids by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day

Many of the local efforts and partnerships developed through these initiatives continue today.

Currently, the CDC is supporting the Y in two distinct initiatives focused on addressing social determinants of health and on the creation and promotion of policies that advance active communities.

Addressing Social Determinants of Health

The CDC supports Ys in Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington through its Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health program. As part of this initiative to address health equity, the Y has worked in collaboration with HealthBegins, an organization focused on upstream approaches to healthcare, to address social determinants of health and improve community-to-clinical linkages in these three states. Using HealthBegins' unique approach to healthcare partnerships, Y staff were trained as community Health Detailers who connected with providers to increase referrals from the healthcare sector to the Y’s evidence-based health interventions, such as the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA and others.

Improving the Nation’s Health Through Active Communities

Since 2015, the Y has promoted the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities with support from the CDC. The work started with Ys in all 50 states engaging in activities that encouraged walking. Today, Ys in 11 states are working to advance active community policy, systems and environmental change at their state level. Specifically, they are working to improve their 2018 score in the Safe Routes Partnership’s State Report Card in one or two of the following categories:

  • Complete streets and active transportation
  • Safe routes to school and active transportation funding
  • Active neighborhoods and schools
  • State physical activity planning

Read our digital storybook about how Ys are supporting Step it Up! The Surgeon General's Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities.

Active Living Strategies

Healthy Eating Strategies

Community Health Action

The Y has made progress in changing how communities improve their health through strategies that include improving access to healthy food, fitness and knowledge about healthy living.

  • Healthy at Home

    From healthy cooking tips to backyard activities, find inspiration for your whole family to stay active and creative at home.

  • COVID-19 Vaccines

    Access timely resources on the COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine equity and where to get vaccinated.  

  • Family Time

    Bond with your family and explore new interests together, like camping, cooking and crafts. Not only will everyone develop new skills, but they'll improve their mental health and well-being.