Blog Archives

Farming and Community Health

How does the protection of farmland correlate to the health of a community? Kane County, Illinois is working to find out.

Over the past ten years, their farmland protection program has preserved over 5500 acres of farmland in the county and they are currently considering a new amendment to broaden investments in local food production. New investments would include small farms and organic farmers producing fruits, vegetables and meats, intended to increase availability of fresh produce in schools, farmers markets, corner stores, and other sites in the community.

Enter the Health Impact Project. HIP is a project funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fund Health Impact Assessments (HIA) that will be used to inform policies at any level of government. Kane County won funding from this project and is expected to produce their HIA next month with measurements from their community. The HIA will assess the ways in which their new amendment could affect the health of local residents through, for example, changes in availability and price of fresh fruits and vegetables, food safety, and economic changes resulting from increased food production in the region.

HIAs are conducted by a panel of stakeholders in the community to ensure that they are engaged in considering health and health disparities with any given policy. The assessment is completed in six steps:
A Health Impact Assessment has six steps:

  1. Screening: Determines the need and value of a HIA;
  2. Scoping: Determines which health impacts to evaluate, the methods for analysis, and the work plan for completing the assessment;
  3. Assessment: Provides: a) profile of existing health conditions, and b) evaluation of health impacts;
  4. Recommendations: Provides strategies to manage identified adverse health impacts;
  5. Reporting: Includes development of the HIA report and communication of findings and recommendations; and
  6. Monitoring: Tracks impacts of the HIA on decision making processes and the decision, as well as impacts of the decision on health determinants.

Kane County hopes to use this assessment to inform the debate surrounding their new amendment, hoping that they will find it could lead to improved health.

The Health Care Council of the Lehigh Valley is doing similar work much closer to home. They created a forum process where they engaged stakeholder organizations from the Valley to discuss their input on community health, and held two series of meetings. In the second set of meetings, they were able to bring back results and analysis from the first round. Participants in the forums were asked what they thought the biggest health concerns in the region were, what would help their community become healthier and what leads to health problems in their area. They were asked follow up questions to these in the second round of meetings.

In these public meetings held last fall, they found that the health care system and services are fragmented, that there is a lack of communication and connection between the community and care providers as well as poverty, lack of jobs and language differences being barriers of access to medical resources. There were also positive findings, the community responded that the local health care providers care about the community and were willing to listen to their needs as well as looking for short and long term solutions to improve community health. Their Community Health Profile breaks down their findings and the particular issues in each city, and can be found here.

You’re Invited!

RenewLV and the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium announce the second-annual State of the Lehigh Valley community indicators report release event!  Join us on Wednesday, February 15 from 11:30am to 1:30pm in Iacocca Hall at Lehigh University for a luncheon and report on the findings of the State of the Lehigh Valley 2011 study.

This year’s report focuses on the economy and employment, housing affordability, median household income, quality of life, and transportation.  A special section has been added to highlight community health and health indicators.  This year’s report also compares the Lehigh Valley to similarly sized metropolitan areas to get a sense of how our community measures up to others in the Northeast.

The event will feature a review of the report’s findings, a luncheon buffet, and discussion among community members and experts in the particular focus areas to encourage dialogue toward developing community solutions.   Join us to work as a community toward a healthier, more successful, and more vibrant Lehigh Valley!

Last year’s event sold out and we have a 250-seat capacity, so register quickly!  The registration fee of $25 includes your luncheon buffet.  Details for registration and sponsorship opportunities can be found by clicking this link to our registration page.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Presenting sponsors:

Proposal to Weaken EPA and What It Means for Latinos

A new report released by The Center for American Progress reveals that Latino communities will be severely impacted by the proposal to weaken the EPA.  Adrianna Quintero over at NRDC Switchboard provides further insight into the potential harm that limits to the EPA would pose. The report shows the reality that many Latinos currently live and work in areas with very poor air quality.

Latino families are disproportionately exposed to some of the most dangerous environmental hazards—and often in their own backyards. Fully 66 percent of U.S. Latinos—25.6 million people—live in areas that do not meet the federal government’s safe air quality standards. This translates into shorter life spans: Latinos are three times as likely as whites to die from asthma. Latino children are also 60 percent more at risk than white children to have asthma attacks.

As the following chart from the report indicates, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Latino population of 11.30% made it on the list of one of the 25 most polluted cities in the US.  It is clear that the proposal to weaken the EPA will negatively impact millions of people, especially vulnerable populations.

The report comes to the conclusion that Latinos should support a strong EPA that protects their health to avoid further damage:

Latinos will pay the price for cuts to the EPA. They and their children will be exposed to elevated levels of risk and harm. Dirty air and water mean more visits to the emergency room, more missed days of work and school, and more cases of dangerous and expensive health issues.

2011 County Health Rankings Report to be Released March 30th

The 2011 County Health Rankings are scheduled for release on March 30th. These rankings show that where we live matters to our health; they are based upon the idea that a community’s health depends on factors such as individual health behaviors, educations, jobs, quality of health care, and the environment.

You probably recall that last year’s county health ranking report outlined the disparity between mortality and morbidity rankings in the Lehigh Valley. While the Lehigh Valley ranked well on mortality (people lived relatively long lives), it ranked less well on morbidity (people were not as healthy as they could be).

In particular, the report revealed a significant county-level discrepancy in morbidity rankings in Northampton and Lehigh Counties. While the Lehigh County ranked 32 out of 67 on morbidity, the Northampton county ranked 59 out of 67.

At RenewLV, we will look at and use the data from this year’s report when considering the benefits a regional health department would provide for the Lehigh Valley.

Town Hall Lecture on Community & Health, October 20 in Bethlehem

This is exciting (almost as exciting as the news that Groupon is now in the Lehigh Valley) — the City of Bethlehem and Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative have teamed up for a Town Hall lecture series.

The first lecture is scheduled for this Wednesday, October 20 at 7:00 pm at the City of Bethlehem Town Hall, 10 E. Church St in Bethlehem [map]. The topic for this lecture? Health and community, with the session entitled “Have a Healthier Bethlehem Now: Community Approaches to Individual Health.” Lehigh Sociology professor Judith Lasker will discuss her research on how social ties and organizations can improve health, and Kellyn Foundation co-founder Dr. Meagan Grega will discuss the foundation’s efforts to fight obesity.

To learn more about the Town Hall lecture series, read the Express Times article on this topic.

The lecture is free and open to all. If you have any questions or comments, you may e-mail John Pettegrew of the South Side Initiative at

Hope you are able to attend.

(By the way — some of you may have received this news via an e-mail from RenewLV. If you didn’t and would like to receive our non-spam, occasional e-mails, visit our Join Us page.)

Second Harvest Food Bank Needs Your Online Support

A fantastic opportunity has come up for our local food bank — but your help is needed with online voting to help make this happen!

Second Harvest of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania’s summer nutrition education pilot program, Food for Thought, is one of 15 featured ideas on the Shoprite and Pepsi Refresh Everything Project. The top five vote-getting food banks will each receive $10,000 to support their project. Voting is open to anyone 13 years of age or older until August 16 (and you can vote daily).

Food for Thought: Healthy Meals for Families, a pilot program co-sponsored by Second Harvest and Community Services for Children (CSC), consists of 6 cooking classes covering a range of topics, from general nutrition, to basic cooking skills, to meal planning and budgeting, to the importance of eating together as a family.  Kati Fosselius, a dietitian with the Allentown Health Bureau, and Todd Saylor, Executive Chef at Sodexo, have volunteered to teach the program. Participants also receive information about the many food assistance programs available to low-income people and can sign up for those programs for which they are eligible. The program is offered to women and families who are currently enrolled in Community Services for Children’s Early Head Start Program, a free educational program for low-income pregnant women and families with children from birth to three years of age.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bring a large corporate grant for an important Lehigh Valley program, but we need strong community participation to bring this program into the top 5. Personally, I think the Lehigh Valley’s committed residents can push this to the number 1 spot.

Visit the Pepsi Refresh/Shoprite project online and VOTE NOW. Yes, you read it right earlier — you can vote daily!! Go. Now.

National Public Health Week – “A Healthier America: One Community at a time” April 5th – April 11th

Since 1995, the American Public Health Association has been serving as the organizer of the National Public Health Week. To highlight issues important to improving the public’s health, this week, the APHA organized activities to educate the public, policy-makers and practitioners about issues related to public health across the nation. This year’s themes included:

  • Monday: A Healthier America and YOU – The impact your health has on your community.
  • Tuesday: Your Community – The impact your community’s health has on the nation.
  • Wednesday: Your School – How education and school policies can improve students’ health.
  • Thursday: Your Workplace – How healthy employees and healthy businesses can effect real change.
  • Friday: Your Nation – How the nation’s health is dependent upon all individuals and communities.

As National Public Health Week is ending (April 11th), please take a few minutes to join the American Public Health Association to support public health. Here are some ways to show your support:

1. Pledge to be a health champion in your community
Sign the APHA pledge to take a step, big or small towards improving your health and the health of your community.

2. Spread the word
Post the A Healthier American video in your facebook page, blog or Twitter account. Help the American Public Health Association to reach 100,000 views by Sunday, April 11th. You can access the video at

To learn more about the National Public Health Week, please visit To learn more about regional public health visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page.

Celebrate Public Health Week Locally

Today marks the beginning of National Public Health Week. To raise awareness about public health issues, we will highlight stories, videos, and photos related to all things public health throughout the week. The theme this year is “A Healthier America: One Community at a Time” — so what better way to start than to bring attention to what the Lehigh Valley’s communities are doing on the public health front?

As  many of you know, the Lehigh Valley Board of Health is finalizing the plan and budget proposal for a regional health department. A Lehigh Valley Health Department will bring essential services — such as immunizations, health screenings, regular restaurant inspections, and education about better nutrition and physical activity — to all residents and workers across the region, regardless whether they live in the cities, borough, or townships. The plan for bi-county health department is subject to the approval of the Lehigh Valley county legislatures. To learn more about this effort — and to learn how you can help out — visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page.

Two cities in the Lehigh Valley — Allentown and Bethlehem — do have existing local health departments that provide high-quality services to the residents of those cities. Below is a brief overview of what the two departments are doing this week.

Allentown Health Bureau is celebrating National Public Health Week by honoring a different local health champion every day of this week. According to the Health Bureau, health champions “advocate, organize, encourage and inspire health improvements and an overall healthy lifestyle for themselves, their families and their communities.” You can read about today’s honored champion — Connie Kunda, former Head of the Department of Physical Education and Athletics at Muhlenberg College — on the City of Allentown’s website.

Meanwhile, Bethlehem Health Bureau is kicking off their Lunch N’ Motion walking program this Tuesday, April 6. The Express Times reports:

“We need to help promote healthy lifestyles and decrease obesity,” said Sherri Penchishen, the bureau’s director of chronic disease, health education and planning programs. “We’re trying to take the guesswork out of it.”

For the first month, the group will walk on the South Bethlehem Greenway and East Third Street. Starting in May, the program will rotate to another city neighborhood, although health bureau officials are hopeful the South Side walking group will continue on its own.

A twice-weekly program, Lunch N’ Motion runs noon to 1 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. In the month of April, the group meets at the grassy area outside of Comfort Suites, 120 W. Third St. Parking is available at the hotel. For more information or to register, call Claudia Richan at 610-997-3562 or e-mail her at

Make sure you subscribe to the Crossroads RSS feed to not miss any of our updates. Also, follow us on Twitter – @renewlv – as we will be linking to public health-related stories often this week. And, of course, visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page to find out about what you can do to help support the establishment of a Lehigh Valley Health Department.

Public Health versus Medical Care

Through my years working in the field of public health, I have encountered several individuals that do not know the distinction between public health and medical care.
These individuals include professionals or just the regular person from the street.
Often times, I hear people define public health as “it’s the health of the public” and medical care as “it only focuses on individual’s health.”

Recently, I was asked to research the distinction between public health and medical care. While conducting my research, I found in a book titled “Introduction to Public Health” by Mary Jane Schneider, the BEST comparison between medical care and public health. It not only defines the core functions of public health (assessment, policy development, assurance), but compares and contrasts them with the medical care practice.

While medicine is concerned with individual patients, public health regards the community as its patient, trying to improve the health of that population. Medicine focuses on healing patients who are ill. Public health focuses on preventing illness.

In carrying out its core functions, public health – like a doctor with his/her patient – assesses the health of a population, diagnoses its problems, seeks the causes of those problems, and devises strategies to cure them. Assessment constitutes the diagnostic function, in which a public health agency collects, assembles, analyzes, and makes available information on the health of the population. Policy development, like a doctor’s development of a treatment plan for a sick patient, involves the use of scientific knowledge to develop a strategic approach to improving the community’s health. Assurance is equivalent to the doctor’s actual treatment of the patient. Public health has the responsibility of assuring that the services needed for the protection of public health in the community are available and accessible to everyone. These include environmental, educational, and basic medical services. If public health agencies do not provide these services themselves, they must encourage others to do so or require such actions through regulation.

As you can see, the fields of public health and medical care are interconnected; while the physician focuses on the health of the individual, public health focuses on the health of the entire population, and both are working together to improve the overall health of a community.

To learn more about public health and the effort to establish a regional health department in the Lehigh Valley, visit RenewLV’s Regional Health Initiative page.

This is Public Health

Through my role as a public health educator, I have learned that many individuals do not know what is covered under this broad term of ‘public health.’ Some time ago, I had a chance to work with young people in Bethlehem on a “This is Public Health” project. My goal with the project was to educate others on the ‘hidden’ ways that public health affects all of us. The photos below illustrate some of these:

As you can see, public health services affect everyone, everywhere (regardless of race, class, gender, or location). A Lehigh Valley Health Department would ensure that all residents of the Lehigh Valley have access to essential services (such as information about better nutrition and physical activity, immunizations, restaurant inspections, and monitoring of air & water quality).

Do you know what public health is? Where have you seen public health?