November 27, 2017 – Michigan Health Endowment Fund (The Health Fund) has contracted with the Michigan Public Health Institute (MPHI) to evaluate the Five Healthy Towns Project. The year-long evaluation is scheduled for completion in October 2018.
5 Healthy Towns Foundation (5HF) is a charitable foundation serving a semi-urban to semi-rural area in Southeast Michigan. Their mission, in line with the Health Fund’s mission, is to cultivate personal and community wellness with the goal of preventing, delaying and remediating chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The board of directors determined the best approach to changing the culture was to engage their constituents as decision makers for their community. That decision lead to the 5 Healthy Towns Project.
The 5 Healthy Towns Project began in 2011 and is made up of five separate Community Wellness Coalitions. The coalitions of community volunteers examine health data specific to their community and develop wellness plans that address needs within their community. They present their annual plan to 5HF, guiding how 5HF funding will be used in their community.
“We couldn’t think of any better way to engage people in living a healthful life than letting them determine how they’d go about it,” CEO of 5HF Amy Heydlauf said.
MPHI brings a team of trained social scientists with particular expertise in coalitions and collective action. The evaluation design has two primary goals. The first is to analyze the role of 5HF and community coalitions have in increasing community wellness in Chelsea, Dexter, Grass Lake, Manchester and Stockbridge, Michigan. The second is to utilize the results, including the literature review and environmental scan, to develop recommendations for the Health Fund’s community health grantmaking strategy.
“We’ve watched with great interest the important work of 5HF and its partners,” Terry Gardner, Health Fund chief operating officer said. “We think there are valuable lessons that can inform our own understanding of community health.”
The Health Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents, focusing on children and older adults. Areas of focus include behavioral health, healthy aging, nutrition and healthy lifestyles.