Part III: Collaborating to Improve Community Safety in Genesee County, Michigan

December 6, 2012
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Public safety is an important component of every community’s overall health. In Flint, MI, located in Genesee County, the violent crime rate is over 400 percent of the national average, making safety a primary concern for many of the city’s residents.

That’s why in April 2011, the Greater Flint Health Coalition (GFHC) incorporated public safety into its initial County Health Rankings Action Plan—a  10-year effort to strategically improve the health of residents in Genesee County and the City of Flint. (Read previous coverage of Flint County, MI: Part I, Part II)

This year, to help achieve its public safety goals, the coalition formed a new partnership with the City of Flint and its Blue Badge Community Policing Program to introduce the 2012 Health & Safety Mini-Grant Program—nine grants for a variety of community-based initiatives aimed at improving local health by creating safer environments for people to live, learn, work and play. Funded efforts range from the installation of street lights and surveillance systems to the development of vacant lots and the expansion of community gardens and neighborhood watch programs.

Some of these mini-grant projects have already demonstrated their impact. For example, the Genesee Township/North Beecher Neighborhood Watch Association completed the “North Beecher Flight from Blight” project to improve neighborhood safety through beautification activities. The association purchased trimmers, mowers, rakes, and shovels that were used to clean up and re-purpose several areas of the neighborhood, and the mini-grant will help ensure that this effort is sustained for years to come.
 
The GFHC has also continued to expand its previous work with Commit to Fit!, a community-wide campaign to promote healthy, active living. Through this campaign, the GFHC provides a number of free resources, including a web-based wellness resource to promote learning and participation, a weekly series of community-based fitness and nutrition classes, and an annual series of community-wide business-to-business fitness challenges. In October 2012, the second Commit to Fit! Fall4Fitness challenge engaged 60 local businesses through Facebook  and other means, resulting in participants logging 2.5 million minutes of physical activity. A variety of Commit to Fit! resources, including tips for fostering a healthy, active lifestyle and toolkits for physicians and smoke-free businesses, are available online.
 
Additionally, in September, the GFHC launched Project Healthy Schools, a wellness program that now teaches students in two local middle schools to make healthy choices about diet and exercise. 
 
“Given our community’s current County Health Ranking, we have adopted approaches to help individual residents learn how to make easy improvements to their daily health, while we work on improving the environment as a whole,” said Kirk Smith, president and CEO of the Greater Flint Health Coalition. “Overtime, these combined efforts will yield a healthier community for all of us to enjoy.” 

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