In 2001, the University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville launched a clinical research project to identify health risks in the community. Alarmingly, researchers found that 80 percent of Brownsville residents were either obese or overweight, one in three were diabetic (50 percent without knowing it), and 70 percent had no healthcare coverage.
The School of Public Health swiftly went to work, launching the Tu Salud Si Cuenta (Your Health Matters) community media campaign and forming a cross-sector Community Advisory Board to promote change in the Brownsville community. The Community Advisory Board today comprises more than 200 members and has provided a critical avenue for cross-sector partners to conceive and advance solutions to the complex, systemic issue of public health in the community. The board unites members from the health field, the business community, and a number of government, education, social service, and non-profit organizations. Its work won the community the coveted Culture of Health Prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (You can learn more about the Brownsville initiative by reading our case study.)
“Good evening!” I shout, addressing the ravenous crowd. “Thank you all for coming to tonight’s NoshUp at Van Loi 2 Vietnamese Restaurant and Chinese Bar-B-Que.”
The place is Greensboro, North Carolina, a mid-sized town in the American South. Once the jewel in the crown of the textiles and tobacco industries, this city now readies itself to wave a new banner.
Here, at this out-of-the-way Vietnamese restaurant in a half hidden strip mall off one of Greensboro’s main thoroughfares, 200 people have gathered en masse to taste a selection of Van Loi 2’s offerings, and to meet the woman behind it all.
Tel Ganesan’s enthusiasm is infectious. As the founder and CEO of Kyyba, a Detroit-area software, automotive electronics, and telematics staffing firm, Tel provides over 500 jobs and generates $40 million of revenues on an annual basis. “All I wanted to do when I came to this country was to pursue the American dream,” Tel has said. In addition to his own business, Tel is a Board Member for Global Detroit and the Board Chair for TiE Detroit, a local entrepreneurship network connected to TiE Global, the world’s largest entrepreneurship network with roots in Silicon Valley started by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals with roots in the Indus region.
As Vice President for Engagement at Florida International University (FIU), Saif builds win-win-win partnerships that create sustainable change for the university and its students; public and private sector partners; and the global community. Prior to joining FIU, Saif has served as founding executive director for City Year Miami, and CEO of FCT Technologies Corp.
What inspires you?
I am a product, and beneficiary, of this community. I immigrated to Miami at 2 years old. But for the guidance I received from my parents and the many role models who have supported me through the years, I would not be where I am today. I feel like I would be selling my community short if I didn’t try to help others. In a way, it’s part of the karmic balance of life – to improve the lives in this community that improved my life.
In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing Miami today?
On April 4th the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge was officially launched!
The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (the Challenge) is a collaboration between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA), and the National Association of Counties (NACo) to encourage small to midsize U.S. cities, counties and federally recognized tribes to create a positive health impact. CEOs for Cities serves as the managing partner to administer the Challenge’s activities.
The Challenge will identify the best practices for achieving community and individual health, wellness and health equity. Additionally, the Challenge promotes collaboration and community-wide involvement and will identify nationally replicable models of health.
by Amanda Paluch, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Northwestern
I recently had the privilege of enjoying a wonderful Cleveland and Akron amenity – the Cuyahoga Valley National Park ‘Bike Aboard!’ program. We biked south down the Ohio and Erie Canal Way, and for $3 jumped on a train back north. My companions and I were ready to refuel from our journey and could not have been more delighted to get off the train directly at a local favorite restaurant, able to enjoy what seemed like the best wings and beer we ever had. This day represents an opportunity of how cities can provide a high quality and balanced life to their residents.
Urban life provides diversity. It is a primary driver of what attracts people to the city. We have an abundance of food and entertainment right at our fingertips. This ranges from active to sedentary activities, and wholesome meals to not-so-nutritious meals – each have their place in enjoying all that cities and life have to offer. However, cities must start leveling the playing field.
By Pete Carlson, President of Regional Growth Strategies. //
There are growing calls for more inclusive economic growth, and fortunately, a useful framework is starting to emerge. Championed by Living Cities and the Fund for Our Economic Future, it focuses on creating good jobs in or near low-income communities, then helping the residents of those communities prepare for and gain access to those jobs. However, creating good jobs (on which everything else depends) remains the weakest link.
What inspires you?
People inspire me. Lifestyles inspire me. When I see family members with new ideas but no access, I’m energized to continue working to build that access. Or when I see young entrepreneurs working tirelessy to be noticed, to make something work – I’m inspired to connect them, to help them make it work in Indy.
In your opinion, what are the top 3 issues facing your city today?
by Melissa Bilancini, Chief Strategy & Resource Officer, CEOs for Cities //
Recently, CEOs for Cities National Meeting Director Brittany Scheckelhoff and I visited Columbus, Ohio to meet with members of our City Cluster that are planning our 2016 National Meeting. We were so excited by discussions of the city’s commitment to increasing access to education and economic opportunity for all residents, the thoughtfully prepared field trips, and the entrepreneurship that we just had to tell you about it.
Jennifer Coleman, Senior Program Officer for Arts, The Gund Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was an architect and president of her own design firm, Jennifer Coleman Creative, LLC. //
What inspires you?
Personally and professionally, what inspires me is the way that physical projects and culture consciously and unconsciously impact how decisions are made. I love how cities transform gracefully (and sometimes awkwardly) in response to challenges (like the Great Recession) and opportunities (like Cleveland rising to the occasion for the Republican National Convention.) I equate cities like the circus performers with spinning plates who always keep them spinning while adding more plates. It’s amazing to me to see all of the different plates that must be spun quickly in a vibrant city.
In your opinion, what is the top issue facing your city today?