Knox County has been selected to become part of the Action Communities for Health, Innovation, and EnVironmental ChangE, or ACHIEVE, initiative.

Knox County is one of 40 communities that have been selected in 23 states to advance community leadership in the nation’s efforts to prevent chronic diseases and related risk factors through a collaborative approach. This approach is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Communities Program.

The purpose of ACHIEVE is to bring together local leaders and stakeholders to build healthier communities by promoting policy, systems, and environmental change strategies that focus on physical activity, nutrition, tobacco cessation, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. ACHIEVE brings together all sectors of a community to spur policy change toward prevention of chronic diseases. The 2010 ACHIEVE communities will build on the successes learned in the 2008 and 2009 ACHIEVE communities. The ACHIEVE approach aims to promote improvements such as increased access to and use of attractive and safe locations for engaging in physical activity; revised school food contracts that include more fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods; and requirements for sidewalks and crossing signals in neighborhoods to make them more pedestrian-friendly, among others.

ACHIEVE fosters collaborative partnerships between city and county health officials, city and county government, tribal programs, parks and recreation departments, local YMCAs, local health-related coalitions, and other representatives from the school, business, health, and community sectors. State departments of health are also available to help provide state-based resources and information as well as links to other collaborators to help communities meet their goals. ACHIEVE recognizes the roles of these institutions as trusted community conveners and aims to combine public health expertise from the state and local levels with the experience of the YMCA and local parks and recreation departments that have expertise in providing community support and outreach.

The 40 communities selected to join the initiative will become part of an aggressive social movement that is mobilizing leaders in local communities to respond to the public health challenge of obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. This movement was inspired in part by the YMCA of the USA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities.

The Penobscot Bay YMCA applied for this program and was selected after a competitive review process.

“The team-based approach modeled on YMCA of the USA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities, allows communities to provide a cohesive response to the lifestyle challenges facing our nation,” said Troy Curtis, executive director of the Penobscot Bay YMCA. “By connecting the leaders who can affect change, communities are helping to make healthy behaviors an easier choice, not just the healthier choice. These improved opportunities for active living and healthy eating are laying a foundation to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases that have taken such a serious toll on Americans.”

Local health departments and YMCAs will immediately begin to compose teams consisting of 10 local leaders. The teams will include elected officials, state and local directors of public health organizations, business leaders from various industries, and leaders of local schools, parks and recreation departments, hospitals and other community organizations. The teams will convene at an Action Institute in June 2010. At the conference, attendees will learn about evidence-based approaches to affecting change in their communities from nationally known experts.

The members selected to serve on the Knox County team are Connie Putnam, director of the Knox County Community Health Coalition; Pinny Beebe-Center, regional manager of Penquis CAP; Woody Moore, school health coordinator for Regional School Unit 13; Jeff Kuller, director of Camden Parks & Recreation; George Mueller, president of Midcoast Business Advisors; Susan Low, a nurse and manager of employee health for Pen Bay Healthcare; Dan Bookham, executive director of Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce; Troy Curtis, executive director of the Penobscot Bay YMCA; and Sandra Bodamer, Activate America project manager and YMCA coach at the Penobscot Bay YMCA.