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By Ashlee Young
At Interact for Health, we are challenging unfair policies and systems that not only make life tougher for some members of our community but also make their lives shorter— up to 26 years between neighborhoods.  That’s why I felt led to speak at Cincinnati’s 2023 Neighborhood Summit, which was centered around the theme “Building Healthy Communities”.
I asked the audience, “How do we get there - to this better place we all imagine?”
We’ve been asking the same question here and we are investing and elevating the following strategies:
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation defines people power as the ability of communities most impacted by inequity to act together to voice their needs and hopes for the future and to collectively drive structural change and hold decision-makers accountable. This means knowing and owning your role. Dr. Tiffany Jana defines these roles as the following:
At Interact for Health, we’re identifying co-conspirators to support the experts already doing the work in their communities.
Changing the Rules
There is an unseen infrastructure for health-related policies and systems. Proximity to and cost of healthy food options influences what we eat and drink. Public transportation, housing and schools dictate where we can live, work and study. Access to green space affects how our children play and breathe.
Changing how these systems work is the best way to cultivate healthier and more just communities. Interact for Health is engaging community experts to change the rules at their workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. Changing the Story and Who Tells It
Changing the narrative is critical to building interconnectedness and equity. In fact, it is a necessary first step on the Journey to Health Justice. Individuals and communities all have a story to tell. Sometimes, these narratives are not ours to tell and have been dictated by those not impacted. This is why we must ask regularly:
What has to change so that we can tell the true story about our community being healthier and more just? These strategies are helping us tackle the root causes that have made our communities inequitable for far too long.
We have an opportunity to become a region that was able to close the gap in life expectancy of up to 26 years from neighborhood to neighborhood. We are only as healthy as our least healthy neighbor, and it will take all of us to build the healthy community we aspire to be.
 SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, USALEEP, 2010-2015
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