Strong partnerships are key to HLM’s community health literacy efforts. While we may be experts in health literacy, we are by no means experts in the culture and context of a specific community. In Monett, Missouri, our partnership process helped the community identify a health need and design activities to address it – this is the story of “Monett on the Move”.
Every story has a beginning – the start of the partnership process
First and foremost, we showed up. We made countless trips to Monett so that we could attend local meetings, connect with community leaders, and talk with community members. We met passionate community leaders dedicated to making the community healthier and bettering the lives of the people in Monett. Our partners included the folks at the Barry County Connections meetings, the Asociación Latina Imagen, and many more.
We recognize that partnerships are built on respectful engagements. Communities are the experts, and our partnership respected their expertise to know their community’s needs. Second, we asked questions. We encouraged partners to share their insights about health issues in the community, resources that could address them, and their collective goals.
Most importantly, we listened to their answers. We paid attention not only to the partnership process, but also to the content of what they were saying to build on the strengths of all partners. Through these conversations, community members identified a lack of physical activity as one of their top health needs. Our partnership then shifted to creating and implementing activities to remove barriers to being active.
The middle - Monett on the Move is born
Enter Monett on the Move – a community-wide walking program. Our conversations with community members and leaders influenced the making of Monett on the Move in all of its facets – what it would look like, how often the walks would occur, what incentives would support walkers and inspire them to show up, and what other activities could be added to benefit the community.
While a walk wasn’t necessarily “cutting-edge” or “innovative,” a health literacy activity doesn’t need to be first of it’s kind to serve a community need. And, this walk was exactly what the community wanted – an activity that would:
Promote physical activity while fostering deep community engagement
Connect community members to the local farmers’ market to encourage healthy eating
Be accessible to all members of the community regardless of their age, level of physical activity, finances and other barriers to participation in fitness activities
Occur twice a month on Saturday mornings when community members had time to attend
Add in other ways for the community to get active, such as Zumba, yoga, and Pilates before each walk
Raise awareness about some really special community resources -- the Greenway Trail and the downtown Monett businesses
And then we took it one step further. To address other identified needs, we partnered with members from the Cover Missouri Coalition (CMC) to attend the walks to share information about health insurance. We asked health insurance experts from the nearby communities to join each walk and to provide counseling to community members about health insurance and access to care resources.
When we started the walks in April of 2017, the group was small, with only 5 community members joining us and event partners to walk along the trail near the Farmers’ Market.
A year later, the walks are bringing in over 130 community members on the last 2 Saturdays of the month to socialize and explore about 2 miles of the Greenway Trail and downtown Monett.
“One thing I have noticed [that] helped increase attendance to the Monett on the Move [walks] was the inclusion of local Latino leaders who promote or are involved in healthy lifestyles [themselves]”, said Daliah Bradley, with Asociación Latina Imagen, enthusiastically.
The end (but not really) - keeping the community moving
We mobilized community leaders and provided them with the tools needed to carry out the event, but we also set them up for sustainability by not only creating community partnerships, but also with available “boost funds” from our partners at the Missouri Foundation for Health. These “boost funds” and, more importantly, the passion and will from community leaders allowed Monett to secure a long-lasting media campaign including radio, newspaper, and magazine ads to promote the walks and helped the City of Monett install a redesigned wayfinding system to its Greenway Trail. After careful consideration and input from community members, the City of Monett used “boost funds” to place mile markers at every quarter of a mile of the Greenway Trail and trailhead signs at each turn, to help walkers and community members easily navigate the trail. People power is magic!
It’s safe to say that Monett on the Move was more than just a walk through Downtown Monett and the local park. It created space for people to gather and engage in healthy behaviors and met the needs of a diverse community.
“The walks have become contagious with increased attendance steadily once the word was received by community members”, Patty Bounous, Community Organizer of the Monett on the Move walks, said. “I feel overall the diehards, the people that continually come each time, found it enjoyable and connected to [the walk] for health reasons, knowledge, and friendships they made with others.”
Success looks different in every community - this is what it looks like in Monett! Amazing work can happen when you simply stop and listen, when communities feel empowered, and when they build on their existing strengths!