It started like any other day. And then, there it was. The email I had been waiting to receive.
Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your program WeTHRIVE!: Community Wellness in Action has been selected as a Model Practice by the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) Model Practices Program…Your program reflects a strong local health department role, collaboration, innovation, and has demonstrated its value by undergoing a vigorous peer-evaluation.
It went on to read:
Please save the date for the NACCHO Annual Conference and the Grand Award Ceremony where your organization will be recognized.
It’s been a month since standing on the stage beneath the bright lights at my first national convention and shaking hands with the NACCHO President. I remember feeling incredibly nervous in anticipation of our name being called. “I’m shaking,” I said to Mary Ellen, one of our team members. “What if I trip and fall flat on my face?” She calmly said, “You’ll be fine.” And fine it was. Actually, it was more than fine. It was remarkable! What an honor it was to accept the Model Practice award on behalf of Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH) and the more than 200,000 people that are part of the WeTHRIVE! initiative in Hamilton County. At that moment, an overwhelming sense of joy washed over me. We did it!
But getting to the “big stage” as a Model Practice didn’t happen overnight. To fully understand the true meaning behind the joy, one must reflect upon the journey. So, albeit very abbreviated, here it is…
In late fall of 2008, HCPH received a grant from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address the risk factors that contribute to physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and tobacco use and exposure in communities experiencing the highest burden of chronic disease. That led us to the Villages of Lincoln Heights, Lockland, and Woodlawn.
Getting our foot in the door would prove to be tricky in these communities. Many people have only experienced the “enforcement” side of a public health agency, like restaurant inspections, which doesn’t always help us public health educators make friends. But after persistence and time, we established relationships, many of which still exist today. These three communities were the true creators of the WeTHRIVE! initiative. They paved the way for others that would follow.
Thinking back to that time takes my breath away. So many late nights and weekends. So much laughter and tears. So many stumbles and successes. So much learning and growing. So many lives touched. So worth it…every minute.
Fast forward almost nine years after the WeTHRIVE! initiative began. I find myself as the sole person on the team that has worked on the WeTHRIVE! initiative since day one. There are not many jobs I can think of that can take you on an emotional rollercoaster, yet keep you coming back every day. This is a testament to the many people that make an initiative successful. I am honored to be a part of an amazing group of people that work tirelessly and devote their lives to helping others. And, most of all, grateful for the many people from all walks of life I’ve had the pleasure of meeting that have forever changed my life through the WeTHRIVE! initiative.
So, you ask…”Why does the Model Practice award mean so much to you?” Simply put, it is the culmination of our past and the hope for our future. It is a reminder that incredible things can happen when we work together. Because together, WeTHRIVE!
Rebecca Stowe, M.Ed., MCHES began her career as a Health Educator and is currently the Director of Health Promotion & Education at Hamilton County Public Health.