Why they stand out
In Manitowoc County, a new collaboration between health and economic development partners is setting the stage for broad outcomes focused on attracting young people to stay in the community and helping residents age healthfully in place. This new initiative, “Vision 22”, builds on discussions about walkable, bikeable places with transportation options into larger conversations about mobility, economic opportunity and quality of life, and has sparked new excitement around a positive vision for the future. Healthiest Manitowoc County, the public health coalition that has taken a lead role since 2003 on efforts to make healthy choices easy and accessible, is a core member of Vision 22. “Health is really a part of the entire vision.” says Rhienna Gabriel, a local alderwoman from the City of Manitowoc and supporter of both Vision 22 and Healthiest Manitowoc County.
As a long-time catalyst that helps local communities create active places, Healthiest Manitowoc County supports municipalities and groups to build upon their existing assets by participating on subcommittees, supporting public health data-gathering needs, and connecting them to grants and other resources. In Manitowoc, the County’s largest city for example, the Complete Streets subcommittee works to create safer and more inviting places to walk and bike through bike sharrows, new signage and an upcoming update to the city’s bicycle and pedestrian plan. In rural communities, Healthiest Manitowoc County partners have helped build health into comprehensive plans and bring programs such as Strong Bones and Strong Women to the rural areas.
Healthiest Manitowoc County is a dot connector, literally and figuratively. They connect community members to opportunities for physical activity through their community event calendar. They connect municipalities to each other and share ideas that work well in the region. Their partners work to connect and enhance the regional trail system, working to support trails like Mariners Trail, Rawley’s Point Trail and Devil’s River State Trail. All of these connections fit into the wider vision for a healthy and growing Manitowoc County. And with a new infusion of energy from the health/economic development worlds, look for powerful outcomes to take shape!
Approach to Equity
By 2030, 1 in 5 adults in the United States will be over the age of 65. Manitowoc County has a high proportion of older adults and is taking a proactive approach to ensure built environments serve aged residents. For many years that work centered around the Stepping On program, with fall prevention work. In more recent years, that perspective has broadened in scope because partners have recognized the importance of supporting residents with mental health challenges and physical disabilities. They have also recognized strong rates of growth in proportion of African American and Hispanic residents. Healthiest Manitowoc County partners strategically with the economically disadvantaged schools to provide opportunities for increased after school activities, and works with the local YMCA, which offers participation scholarships to community members in need.
Healthiest Manitowoc County has also worked to connect new community members to culturally relevant community resources and increase access to health services, including the formation of a Federally Qualified Health Center offering physical, dental and mental health services.
Local partners also work to connect at-risk populations to resources, including older adults, individuals with mental health and substance abuse needs, and those with physical disabilities. Regional partners are looking at strategies to connect groups to the resources they need to thrive, especially transportation and housing. One example of progress: in the City of Manitowoc, students are able to ride the bus for free and the public library is a safe space for tutors with study rooms. The coalition is interested in being part of the statewide learning networks who are advancing equity through a health in all policies approach.