OK, you’ve been awarded a Community Transformation Grant. Your innovative strategies are making people healthier in your city, school or neighborhood.

How do you plan to show it?

Public Health Institute's Robert Berger presenting at a CDC conference

Public Health Institute’s Robert Berger discusses strategies for communicating successes of Community Transformation Grants and community health improvements during a CDC conference this week. Photo by Daniel Greenberg, APHA

Since the inception of the grants, which were created under the Affordable Care Act and awarded for the first time in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has asked awardees for “success stories,” or evidence that the agency’s investments are making communities healthier. APHA has also been entrusted to place a national spotlight on successful grants, known as CTGs.

Making that success heard — even when it’s out there — has been challenging, for a variety of reasons. At CDC’s Division of Community Health conference this week in Atlanta, health leaders discussed how to bring CTG stories to a larger audience, and spur further health changes.

“The point of CTG really is to tell the success stories at the national level — so that even communities that aren’t CTG start [accepting the same healthy behaviors],” said Shawn McIntosh, CTG project manager at APHA. “It is about success breeding success. It is about you taking these stories to your decision-makers and saying ‘Look at what’s happening in your neighboring states, your neighboring communities.’”

Getting people to notice CTG accomplishments, according to McIntosh, depends on persuasive storytelling with evidence of strong health practices, compelling data, why a strategy is innovative or newsworthy and how it can transfer  to other communities. Notable examples include:

  • My Brother’s Keeper:  which on a limited budget has used earned and social media — including commercials produced by interns, college radio talks and Facebook events — to create substantial health change, such as the passage of smoke-free ordinances in 27 municipalities in Mississippi; and
  • Public Health Institute: whose “CA4Health” initiative earned CBS news coverage on the effects of second-hand smoke and smoke-free housing polices, while its video on childhood nutrition forecast sugar-free beverage policies that will take effect at rural Head Start centers on Sept. 1.

The institute’s Robert Berger, project director at CA4Health, said that the most important part of a CTG story is “the human element.” Berger showed a vintage photo of his mother, explaining that smoking took her life before she got to see much of his own.

“Don’t be afraid to go there,” Berger said. “It’s OK to be vulnerable. It’s OK to be personal when it affects you, and it’s also very effective.”