Step 3. Community & System Change

Stimulated community capacity and sustainability around a culture of health: Established neighborhood groups now meet monthly with up to 60 residents per neighborhood and offer 15 project planning committees.

Played a leading role in the New Haven Food Policy Council: Contributed to the development of the New Haven Food Action Plan and its official endorsement by New Haven Board of Alders. Other accomplishments include:

  • Expanding the number of community sites offering application assistance for enrolling into SNAP
  • Hosted a Mayoral Candidate Forum on Food and Health in July 2013 for over 160 residents, raising awareness about the importance of the next New Haven administration to address food and health issues
  • Recruited community-based teachers to offer free cooking classes and “Pop-Up” cooking sites around New Haven with 350 community members learning new healthy cooking skills
  • Increased SNAP (Food Stamp) outreach through new efforts to expand the number of community sites offering application assistance for enrolling into SNAP. Also received funding from the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven to offer a training program empowering residents to become advocates for better food policies and services.

Launched Get Healthy Connecticut in New Haven: bringing together all stakeholders across the city to connect residents to local resources and identify areas for new policy and structural change.

Changing the neighborhood food environment through community gardens, farmers’ markets and healthy corner stores.

Invested in “health infrastructure” at schools by purchasing nearly $100,000 of sports equipment, books, menu board technology and media displays.

Identified Parent Advocates to strengthen parent engagement in schools.

Supported implementation of health education curriculum in K-8 grades 2013-2014.

CARE staff guided the design of the New Haven Public School District's School Wellness Manual - a reference for staff and parents to guide school activities and policies that promote healthy behaviors and create a healthier school environment.

Other Initiatives:

Elm City Market Coop - Outreach Committee

Elm City Market, a downtown coop grocery store, is scheduled to open at the end of August 2011, and already many members and committees have stepped up to play roles in its development.

The store will stock natural, organic and locally sourced foods, as well as traditional household products. The store plans to be competitively priced and to provide discounts for people using food stamps.

Alycia Santilli, the Assistant Director of CARE, is leading the Community Outreach Committee which is charged with promoting and publicizing the benefits of shopping at and participating in the market coop to residents of the greater New Haven area. The committee will specifically focus on communities that currently lack easy and affordable access to healthy food choices in their neighborhoods.

For more information on the Elm City Market Coop, visit: http://www.elmcitymarketcom/

Recent Actions:

  • Co-chaired New Haven Public School’s District Wellness Committee: creating infrastructure to sustain healthy schools by implementing the top-ranked District Wellness Plan in Connecticut, and a Physical Activity & Wellness program in 16 schools.
  • Wellness Manual and School Wellness Status Card now available to help teachers/staff to make systematic health improvements and conduct standard assessments in all schools.
  • Instituted school wellness teams to drive implementation and sustain health-related initiatives to improve student focus and positive health behaviors.

New Haven Public Schools District Wellness Committee

The District Wellness Committee (DWC) collaborates with community partners to support innovative policies, programs and efforts that promote healthy behaviors in schools. Senior Program Director of CARE, Sue Peters, serves as the co-chair of the District Wellness Committee along with Will Clark, the Chief Operating Officer of the New Haven Public Schools.

Since its inception in 2001, the DWC has supported numerous efforts to improve the health of New Haven students. The committee’s first initiative was to assess the status of nutrition in the New Haven Public Schools, including examining the content of vending machines and food service machines. This work resulted in replacing unhealthy snacks and beverages with healthier options. In August 2003, a Central Kitchen facility opened offering healthier food options to New Haven students. The Healthy Kids First™ program emerged from the DWC in 2004, aiming to replace popular junk food snacks with healthy snacks at lunch time. A ban was placed on candy, soda, and bake sales during school hours, pushing kids towards healthy alternatives instead. The use of food as a reward or incentive in the school systems was also discouraged. In 2010-2011, the District Wellness Committee promoted healthy eating behaviors under the leadership of Tim Cipriano, Director of Food Services, and community partners. 

For more information, visit:

New Haven Public Schools PAW: Physical Activity and Wellness

CARE oversees the New Haven Public School District’s flagship school-based wellness initiative, PAW: Physical Activity and Wellness. PAW began in 2005 as a pilot program in six schools to meet an unfunded state mandate that required a daily period of physical activity for K-5 students. The District Wellness Committee received funding from the Connecticut Health Foundation to develop and implement PAW with the aim of integrating physical activity into classrooms and providing more health promotion in schools.  Since that time, PAW has expanded its mission to include three core components:

  1. Develop School Wellness Teams
  2. Support for School-Wide Health Promotion Campaigns
  3. Ensure daily physical activity for students in grades K-5.

Each PAW school is led by a School Wellness Team whose facilitator receives a yearly stipend through the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.  The School Wellness Teams organize school-wide health campaigns that fit the needs of their particular school.  Past campaigns have included hand hygiene, bully prevention, Walk Across America, and healthy food taste testing.  CARE has played an integral role in the development of these campaigns by creating the district’s first K-8 Nutrition Campaign Resource Guide.

PAW is currently in the following 14 New Haven Public Schools and we hope at some time to expand throughout the district:

  • Barnard
  • Bishop Woods
  • Clinton Ave
  • Columbus
  • Davis Street
  • East Rock
  • Edgewood
  • J. Daniels
  • Jepson
  • K. Brennan
  • Troup
  • Martinez
  • Nathan Hale

Community Interventions for Health

Donaghue Foundation, 2008-2013

Through a collaborative approach, we are working to prevent, reduce and control chronic disease by creating environments and policies that reduce exposure to the three main risk factors for obesity and chronic disease:  tobacco use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

Specifically, we are taking a multi-sectoral (e.g., neighborhoods, families, schools, workplaces, health centers, city/state government) approach to:

  • Examine the effectiveness of comprehensive, community-wide interventions that address policy, environment, and economic changes, as well as population knowledge and skills (Outcome Evaluation).
  • Develop and implement comprehensive and sustainable interventions based on evidence-based models to improve individual and community health, while reducing health disparities (Implementation).
  • Document the effectiveness and practical benefit of comprehensive, community-wide interventions across levels of implementation/fidelity as evidenced by (Process Evaluation).
New Haven Map of Assets

Neighborhood Health Surveys & Asset Mapping

In the fall of 2009, CARE collected health surveys from 1,205 residents in six of our highest-risk neighborhoods – Dixwell, Dwight/West River, Fair Haven, Hill North, Newhallville, and West Rock. Households were randomly selected from a citywide list of addresses and surveyed over seven weeks by a team of 20 trained interviewers from the New Haven community. CARE’s asset mapping project documented neighborhood features related to chronic disease risk factors in six New Haven neighborhoods. Using handheld computers, Youth@Work interns collected data about the stores, restaurants, parks, gardens, and recreational facilities in these neighborhoods.

Urban Youth Asset Mapping: A First Look

New Haven Public School Health Surveys and Measurements

CARE has collaborated with New Haven Public Schools to determine whether health is related to our students’ academic success. In 2009, CARE collected health surveys and physical measures from 5th and 6th grade students in 12 schools. Study information was linked to CMT scores from the following spring 2010 to determine if healthier children performed better.

Promoting Health with Staff and Patients

As part of our flagship research initiatives, Community Interventions for Health, Dr. Lydia Chwastiak from the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) has taken the lead on a worksite and clinical baseline survey, assessing chronic disease risk factors of CMHC staff and current clinical interventions of providers there. CMHC has approximately 500 employees and coordinates Community Services Network, a network of 18 non-profits in the city that provide behavioral health (mental health and addiction services). Staff surveys have been completed. Health interventions targeting staff and then patients will begin this spring.