[Public News Service]

PHOTO: Colorado projects honored as national leaders for promoting health include Aurora's Increasing Access program to expand health services during a child's first 1,000 days of life. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

PHOTO: Colorado projects honored as national leaders for promoting health include Aurora’s Increasing Access program to expand health services during a child’s first 1,000 days of life. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

DENVER – Three Colorado projects are winners in a nationwide search for innovative approaches to addressing poor health in low-income communities.

“Project Access” in Colorado Springs says it plans to use its $75,000 award to accelerate efforts to bring faith-based, health and recreational organizations together to serve the city’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Aubrey Day, strategy coordinator for Live Well Colorado Springs, says the project is unique because it starts by confronting real concerns facing people living in poverty.

“If their basic priority is just survival, and their greatest worry is about making their next rent payment, we can’t be successful in going in and trying to get them to think about eating healthy, being physically active, getting preventive exams,” says Day.

The winning projects are entering new territory. Instead of addressing health care in a silo, each project connects health care providers, government agencies and community organizations to tackle all the conditions that affect health. These include such issues as neighborhood safety, housing, safe sidewalks and playgrounds, and exposure to violence.

Day says Project Access will focus on communities in southeast Colorado Springs because of its significant disparities, particularly in terms of access to basic services. A key component, she adds, is to engage the community in conversations from the outset to ensure they’re a part of the change they want to see.

“There’s very little primary health care in that area,” says Day. “Safe environments are close to nil. They’re really struggling with high poverty rates, rising unemployment and, as a result of a lot of those issues, some pretty high rates of violence.”

Awards also will go to an Aurora project, “Increasing Access,” to expand health services during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, and to “Northeast Denver Unified,” which wins support to meet its ambitious goal of eliminating health disparities by the time children enter school.