HEALTHY GORGE INITIATIVE
The Healthy Gorge Initiative creates
collaborations between nonprofits, residents with lived experience, community-based organizations, public health, healthcare partners, schools, government agencies, Community Health Workers, and local, state, and regional funders.
Our vision is to make individuals and the overall community healthier by addressing community-identified needs through community-identified solutions.
WHAT WE'VE DONE... SO FAR
In the Gorge, ‘health’ means having enough healthy food to eat everyday AND living in safe, stable, affordable housing AND equitable access to opportunities and equitable access to resources AND jobs that pay a living wage AND mental/physical health AND a sense of community.
Addressing just one of these is not enough, we need them ALL, and more, to be healthy.
To this end, the Healthy Gorge Initiative supports efforts to address a wide variety of issues including, food, housing, economic impact, equity, sense of community, mental/behavioral health, access to services, children/youth, oral health, physical activity, research/evaluation, clinic-based services, and community capacity to undertake these efforts.
by the numbers
FTE Jobs created/
by the numbers
by the numbers
HOW WE DO IT
We knew we needed to change if we wanted a different result, so, we just decided to do it differently.
The Healthy Gorge Initiative began with the premise that collectively, what we had done over the past decades was not enough… we were not getting much healthier. Every year we were facing the same issues. If we expected a different result, we knew we would need to do something different. So we did.
The first step was to change the paradigm around how community issues are identified and then, how those issues are addressed.
Paradigm change #1: Authentic Community Engagement
We shifted the question from 'HOW do we identify community issues' to 'WHO identifies community issues?' We believe that every person is an expert in their own lived experience. We also believe that the best way to create health is to ask people most impacted what they need. We ask, we listen, and then we respond. In practical terms, this enables us to understand what the people who live and work in this community actually need and want to be healthy. We call this authentic community engagement.
Paradigm change #2: Collaboration
With a better understanding of the issues that needed addressing, we began to identify existing resources, align those resources to maximize their effectiveness, and then leverage all of that to create programs to fill the gaps. In short, we design community-identified solutions that address community-identified needs.
Paradigm change #3: Collective Impact Health Specialist
Once these two changes occurred, we needed to secure funding for the new programs: The CIHS is a community-based role funded by Providence Hood River Hospital in collaboration with United Way-Columbia Gorge and Hat Creek Consulting. The CIHS supports and leads the above work and then, leverages the paradigm changes to write grants securing funding to support those programs.
For us, stories can shape a broader narrative that contribute to a deeper understanding about what a healthy, equitable community is and how one is (or isn’t) created. This understanding in turn shapes ideas and actions. Currently, the dominant narrative—from the stories in the media to ways decision-makers describe solutions—emphasizes that opportunities for health are defined by individual choices or chance, not the structural conditions and policies that create those opportunities. We strive to address both immediate individual needs and system change through our collective work. We call it serving people in line today, while working to shorten the line for tomorrow.
We also like to share our experiences. Below are some stories about the work and the people doing the work.
HGI SPOTLIGHT SERIES
Born to Be an Activist: Spotlight on Janet Hamada
Addressing Housing Challenges in the Gorge: Spotlight on Karen Long
Fight for Environmental Justice in the Gorge: Spotlight on Ubaldo Hernandez
The Road to Becoming a Community Health Worker: Spotlight on Maria Pena
Place, Connection, and Equity: Carolina Pfister
STORIES IN OTHER OUTLETS
HGI works closely with the American Communities Project, which combines data with storytelling to offer unique perspectives about healthy communities. The following pieces all appear on americancommunities.org
Addressing Enduring Inequities Through Policy
COVID Tests Gorge's Culture of Health
Latinx Locale's Strides from Food Insecurity to Bounty
In the Pandemic, Gorge's Food System Mobilizes For
Farmworkers and Native Americans
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize 2016
In 2016, the Columbia Gorge was one of seven communities selected across the country to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Prize. (We were selected from a pool of more than 220 applicants). The Prize honors and elevates communities making great strides in their journey toward better health.
Part of the HGI's goal is to build community capacity, especially around collaboration and grant writing. Below are some resources intended to help.
Gorge Data Dashboard
Regional data dashboard managed by the Columbia Gorge Health Council
These partners have funded the various projects we have undertaken in our Gorge community through our Collective Impact efforts. For more information on each partner, click on the logo/link below. For more information on which funding partners supported which projects, visit our Community Identified Solutions page for the specific details/funders of each project.