Every community has different challenges when it comes to health and well-being, and those who live and work locally often generate creative solutions. That understanding was the driving force behind our selection of the AARP Well-Being Champions. First announced in late 2017, these 10 community leaders – all of whom are age 50 plus – were chosen for their outstanding work in conceiving, developing, and implementing creative solutions that are fostering a Culture of Health in their communities. In addition to honoring their achievements, we want to inspire you to generate new solutions for your community. Here is a brief description of each Champion’s work.
Sari Feldman, executive director of Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, opened a library branch in a previously unheard of setting: a county hospital, where those receiving care and family members can go for everything ranging from health information (often at a doctor’s recommendation) to employment search after a longer-term stay.
Paul Leon and his Illumination Foundation turn older or abandoned motels into recovery facilities and rooms for homeless people recently discharged from the hospital.
Shireen Lewis’s SisterMentors provides support for students of color, from young girls dreaming of college to older women going back to school.
Patricia McGinnis and California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform protect the rights of long-term care consumers by advocating for, among other reforms, the elimination of inappropriate use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes.
Kellen Kee McIntyre conceived of the idea to convert an historic home in an affordable retirement community into a community arts space, and subsequently arranged for an arts program to be held there. The result: Bihl Haus Arts Center/Go! Arts Program.
Gloria McNeal saw how health care vans are not an ideal solution because mobile services that come and go, by definition, aren’t rooted in the community. With health care largely built on trust, mobile services were being underused, she observed in multiple cities where she worked. The solution: National University Health Services Outreach, which roots health care in the community by establishing partnerships with community leaders and using local institutions, from churches to the Salvation Army, to host services on set days.
Scott Miller’s Circles USA wants success from its clients experiencing poverty. Never mind, mere subsistence. The client goal: leave poverty in the dust, and for good. Circles USA clients pursue employment through a strategy that’s been proven most effective but one that is not always emphasized with underserved populations: through relationships and connections. The mentor- and peer-based program is now in more than 70 communities across the U.S. and Canada.
Elizabeth Ouyang’s Plum Blossoms online space found a way to break through cultural barriers and meet a real need. It supports and empowers Asian women with cancer and their families.
Robin Phillips masterminded the rebirth of rural, intercity bus service in America, enabling greater access to jobs, health-care services, and other resources that support well-being.
Siobhan Reardon, by creating the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literary Center, found a way to simultaneously tackle illiteracy and urban food scarcity. How she did it: by offering free or no-cost cooking classes and nutrition workshops in a library.
The Impact Continues
The Well-Being Champions continue to inspire and spread innovative ideas. Since we launched the initiative, Champions have presented their work at events such as the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs Conference, discussed their work with media outlets, and been highlighted by various organizations such as the American Academy of Nursing. This spring, three of the Champions are slated to discuss their solutions at the 2019 Aging in America Conference. (Stay tuned for more information about the panel in an upcoming blog post.)
Meanwhile, as these Champions discuss their work publicly, we continue to work behind the scenes to foster connections. For example, we’re connecting Champions with their respective AARP state offices as well as departments across AARP to explore potential synergies and opportunities for further idea sharing and collaboration.
Visit our website to view a brief video and profiles of each Champion. If any of the Champions’ work touches on your own work or a challenge in your community and you’d like more information, please contact us. Email Jennifer Peed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Reinhard, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, is a senior vice president at AARP, directing its Public Policy Institute, the focal point for AARP's public policy research and analysis. She also serves as the chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a resource center to ensure the nation has the nurses it needs.
Jennifer Peed, MSW, is the director of the Office of Center Integration at the Center to Champion Nursing in America, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to improve America’s health through nursing. Jennifer provides financial oversight, directs operational activities, and provides guidance on special projects. She also serves as chief of staff for the Campaign for Action.