In 2010, rural, low-income Putnam County, Missouri was ranked 74th out of 115 in the County Health Rankings (CHR). What happened over the next three years was a carefully planned and well-implemented strategy that moved this community of 5,000 to 25th in the 2013 CHR and built a healthier future for Putnam County residents.
The Putnam County Playbook
Step 1: Get Organized
The Putnam County Health Department knew diverse perspectives were important for lasting change, so in 2007 formed they Putnam County Partners in Prevention (PCPP) coalition.
This multi-sector coalition merged two other existing coalitions and currently includes schools, law enforcement, businesses, social services, and the faith community–all dedicated to bringing the same things to Putnam County that larger cities enjoy: access to healthy foods, safe places for the kids to play, and recreational facilities that allow residents to live active, healthy lives.
The stronger connections and shared focus of the coalition helped them move to the next crucial step.
Step 2: Find Funding
In 2009 they applied for a $25,000 NACCHO grant and were one of only 10 health departments in the nation to receive funds. This initial seed money allowed them to recruit additional community partners and send coalition members to an Action Institute training where they learned about determining priority issues and creating an achievable action plan.
Mary Clapham, coalition member and Action Institute attendee, found the training valuable. “I especially liked the round table brain storming,” said Clapham. “Thinking out of the box and building upon each other’s ideas.”
The group came away with the focused goals of increasing physical activity for all residents through creating a more walkable, bikable community and growing the number of smoke-free businesses in the county.\
Step 3. Create Community Buy In
Once the coalition knew their mission, it was time to get the rest of the community involved. Ericka Klingner, Administrator of the Putnam County Health Department, visited as many local organizations as possible to talk about the impact of place on health.
“People didn’t make the connection of why the health department was trying to improve the parks.” –Ericka Klingner, Putnam County Health Department
The coalition also conducted public Walkability Audits to bring attention to sidewalk issues and livable streets. They held community meetings, also called Charettes, to gather input about redesigning the parks. “The process was engaging and eye opening for everyone,” Klingner said.
This public service announcement was produced in partnership with Truman State University to raise community change awareness.
With later funding, a branding campaign called Putnam County Good Life was introduced to further community buy-in and highlight the expanded goals of healthy eating, physical activity, drug free living, and smoke-free air.
Step 4. Leverage Your Assets
Around this time, the Missouri Foundation for Health opened their Social Innovation for Missouri (SIM) funding, which had goals that mirrored the NACCHO priorities. It was a great fit for Putnam County, but required $100,000 in matching money; a tall order for a small county. The first year $50,000 came from the city of Unionville, which serves as the Putnam County seat. The health department pitched in $25,000 and the remaining $25,000 was raised from 16 other partners. From there, things only went up.
“After the community saw some of the improvements it became easier to raise match money,” said Klingner.
In 2011 they received $272,232 in match fund and $319,792 in 2012 for a total of $1.38 million in grants and match money over the course of three years.
Step 5. Establish long-term policy changes
The coalition knew that when it comes to making the healthy choice the easy choice, it often means a shift in the way things are done. Policy changes like Livable Streets improve roads and sidewalks to encourage walking and bicycling. Joint use agreements open up public spaces like schools and gymnasiums for recreation. The implementation of these policy changes in Putnam County greatly increased walkability and access to recreation for residents.
Step 6. Celebrate Success
On June 1, 2013 Putnam County celebrated the grand opening of newly redesigned City Park with a ribbon cutting ceremony and fun day that attracted nearly 350 residents. Children enjoyed a bike rodeo, basketball tournament, bounce house and dunk tank. Everyone was invited to try out the bike blender as well as enjoy a healthy breakfast and lunch. Giveaways included gift cards from the smoke-free businesses in town and bicycle helmets.
A highlight was trolly tours that took residents around town to visit all of the improvements made, learn more about the partnership, and marvel at how far the community had come in a few short years.
Learn more about this community transformation by contacting the Putnam County Health Department.