Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) is the local public health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties providing a wide range of public health services to 1.4 million residents in the Denver Metropolitan region. TCHD promotes, protects and improves the lifelong health of individuals and communities through the effective use of data, evidence-based prevention strategies, leadership, advocacy, partnerships, and the promotion of health equity. Since research has shown that a person’s health and the likelihood of becoming sick are greatly influenced by powerful social and economic factors such as access to stable housing, economic opportunity, and education, TCHD believes health is at the forefront of Mile High Connects’ multi-sector problem-solving approach to these complex topics. Participation with Mile High Connects furthers TCHD’s efforts to bring health considerations to policy and system change work in non-health sectors. A well-planned regional transit system will not only improve housing options, access to jobs and access to good schools, it is the vehicle for good health.
Terry Liggins is the Executive Director of Bennie E. Goodwin After School Program, which is located in Aurora, Colorado, but her heart and home reside in the Far Northeast Denver neighborhood of Montbello, where she has lived with her family for more than 15 years.
“A friend and mentor, Rich Male, approached me regarding some work around possible gentrification issues in the Montbello neighborhood,” Terry says. “He knew I lived in Montbello and thought I might be helpful in working with others to determine solutions. Once I found out the work that needed to be done, I knew I had to help.”
That was three years ago and Terry has since been involved, developing her strength as a leader with the Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC), a Mile High Connects grantee organization that works to engage Montbello community members and provide them with tools to develop grassroots leadership skills to address issues that affect their quality of life. MOC currently works with residents on task teams to address three main issues: retail and economic development, community enhancement, and transportation. Terry co-leads the Transportation Task Team (T3). To date the efforts of MOC have led to the cessation of service route changes that would have obstructed residents’ direct access to and from the only grocery store in the neighborhood. Additionally partnerships with council representatives have let to sidewalk and bus stop infrastructure improvements. Much more is in the works.
“I would like to see transit decisions on the community level be a more collaborative effort between RTD, city officials, and residents. I would also like to see decision makers be more proactive vs. reactive to local community needs around transit,” Terry says.
Why does Terry feel so passionately about Montbello? Perhaps it’s because it reminds her of “home.” “I really enjoy the diversity in people, housing, culture, economic status. It feels more like how the world should be. It also reminds me of the small community where I was raised in Pittsburgh—a neighborhood that consist of African American, Italians, Polish, Asians and more. We dined together, went to school together, went to church together, and played sports together. Sometimes thing went well and sometimes they didn’t, but at the end of the day we were still neighbors and friends.”
From her three years as a community advocate, activist, and resident leader she says that she’s learned that communication, flexibility, patience, and resilience are key. “Most of all I’ve learned to be a better ‘listener’, she says. “It’s vital to hear the voice of the community.”
Terry Liggins, Montbello Community Leader
The Colorado Health Foundation’s vision is that Colorado will be the healthiest state in the nation. We work to improve the health and health care of Coloradoans by increasing access to quality health care and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. To be successful in this, we know that we must engage those beyond the usual partners in health care and public health; in fact, we believe that health is everybody’s business. Health doesn’t just happen in the doctor’s office; it happens in schools and early childhood settings, in our workplaces, at the local park, in our homes and even in our transit system. That’s why we are proud to be a member of Mile High Connects. Our engagement began in 2011 and Foundation staff currently participate on the Steering Committee, Grant Fund Committee, Internal Equity and Inclusiveness Committee and the Advisory Council. When the Foundation first joined Mile High Connects, we were in the early stages of shaping a Healthy Communities approach within our Healthy Living outcome area. Over time, we have expanded our Healthy Communities work, including launching a Healthy Places initiative, seeding the Colorado Fresh Food Financing Fund, making program-related investments in supportive housing and community facilities and using our grantmaking to support a variety of nonprofit and public sector organizations working to increase opportunities for healthy eating and active living in communities across the state. Mile High Connects has provided the Foundation a unique opportunity to offer our perspective and expertise while learning from and collaborating with a diverse set of partners, all working toward making the Metro Denver region a place of opportunity for all residents.
is a coalition of Westwood residents partnering with organizations to make Southwest Denver a healthier place. Westwood Unidos’ unique approach trains resident leaders to advocate for equitable resources, to organize their neighbors, and to increase civic engagement community-wide. Currently, Westwood Unidos’ campaigns are to transform blighted streets and alleys into safe and active community places, to organize community to improve public transit options, to re-develop parks and build new parks, to build a Recreation Center in Westwood, and to promote drinking water and good nutrition. Westwood Unidos is pleased to announce the opening of “La Casita,” at 3790 Morrison Road, a community-run space that is open for residents to teach exercise, academic, and art classes and host support groups.
Thanks to funding support from Mile High Connects and strong partnership from 9to5 Colorado, Westwood Unidos has been able to provide dedicated efforts to increasing transit access in Westwood. Projects include cleaning bus benches, petitioning for new lights to be installed along walking routes, and staffing a successful campaign to reinstate an RTD bus route on Morrison Road. 9to5’s community organizing expertise and Mile High Connects funding support and strategic guidance were leveraged by Westwood Unidos’ Community Connector’s community knowledge, trust and relationships. Community leaders participating in Westwood Unidos’ Built Environment Action Team kicked-off the campaign by conudcting hundreds of community surveys and learning that many residents had difficulty accessing jobs and food due to there not being any bus service in the middle of Westwood. Westwood Unidos’ Community Connector, Maricruz Herrera, along with Andrea Chiriboga Flor, from 9 to 5 Colorado, began a multi-month campaign to organize dozens of community residents who wanted increased bus access. These community members met with RTD decision-makers and went to RTD Board meetings to request that the bus on Morrison Road be reinstated. The community effort and persistence paid off. The new bus began service in May 2016, and it has been a success, with ridership above expectation. Due to the new bus route, community members living in the heart of Westwood now have a way to get to work, to the supermarket, and to the light rail station on Alameda using RTD.
Westwood Unidos is grateful to Mile High Connects for its commitment to transit equity in Denver, and to its support in the form of funding, research, technical assistance, advocacy and strategic thinking.
Prepare for the Day at the Capitol by watching this recorded webinar or reviewing this presentation.
Join us at the State Capitol to talk about health equity! Connect with legislators, organizations and community members across the state. Learn more about the Health Equity Commission and the Office of Health Equity.
What is Health Equity? What is the state of health equity and disparities in Colorado? How do we apply a health equity lens in all policies?
Community members invited to participate! A light lunch is included. Organized by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Health Equity Commission and Office of Health Equity.
Health equity is when all people, regardless of who they are or what they believe, have the opportunity to attain their full health potential. Achieving health equity requires valuing all people equally with focused and ongoing efforts to address inequalities.
Last week during the Building Station Areas that Build Community event, Denver Shared Spaces and Mile High Connects released a report looking at a handful of station areas in our prioritized geographies and the community benefits they may have to offer to the surrounding neighborhoods. The report, 2015 Community Facility Scan: Opportunities for Community-Benefit Commercial Development at Transit in Metro Denver, illuminates the assets and challenges of the station areas and provides recommendations for each. Participants also had the chance to try out the story map tool. The base layer of the tool are MHC’s prioritized station areas; it then incorporates layers of data on things such as health equity, employment, education, and existing community facilities. In addition to the data, it offers rich context for each station area, which provides a comprehensive story for the user. It also highlights recommendations to consider to increase opportunity around the particular station area. Click here to try out the story map tool. We are excited about the report and interactive tool and will continue to use station areas as touchstones for opportunity for low-income communities and communities of color.