Welcome to Well Connected Communities
The nation’s Cooperative Extension System and its 4-H youth development program have the scale, reach, and experience to act as important partners and change agents for health equity. Extension’s Well Connected Communities initiative helps build diverse, multigenerational, cross-sector coalitions that can recognize and address systemic health inequities. By intentionally forging connections, building capacity, and taking action in these communities and across the Extension network we can ensure that life-long health and well-being are within everyone’s reach.
Well Connected Communities is an initiative of the Cooperative Extension System in partnership with National 4-H Council and support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
Well Connected Communities defines health equity as “life-long health and well-being being within everyone’s reach.” Meaning everyone, regardless of their age, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or other characteristics, can access the health care they need and make healthy choices the easy choices. On the ground, we are supporting diverse and inclusive cross-sector community coalitions as they work to recognize and address the local factors and conditions that have a strong influence over people’s ability to attain life-long health and well-being. And we are also examining how the Cooperative Extension System can make the changes it needs to support this kind of work in communities across the country.
Youth Adult Partnership
Well Connected Communities coalitions are built on the strength of youth-adult partnership. This means young people and adults come to the table as equals to address the issues facing their community, working together, and taking responsibility for decisions and actions that would have once fallen solely to adults. Solutions developed by a representative group, including youth, help ensure those impacted most by disparities lead the way in developing solutions. And the best practices and learnings from this process fuel innovation and change with healthier outcomes for young people and communities across all of America. Youth empowerment like this builds engaged adults and future leaders. And that is an experience that both young people and adults will carry forward as they continue to work together for change.
Policy, Systems and Environmental Change
For many years, health programs have focused on changing individuals’ behaviors through education. While education is essential, it is unlikely to drive community- or institution-level change. Systems change is about addressing the root causes of issues, which are often stubborn and woven throughout networks of people, organizations, governments, and historical causes and effects. It is a process designed to intentionally examine and alter relationships, resources, environments and policies that cause an organization or an institution to behave in a particular way. Big and sustainable impacts can be made by changing laws or by reshaping physical landscapes. Well Connected Communities is using policy, systems and environmental, or PSE, change approaches to go beyond programming and address the conditions that can put life-long health and well-being within everyone’s reach.
Where We Are Working
Wave Two of the Well Connected Communities Initiative is focused on supporting health equity by developing and supporting policy, systems and environmental (PSE) change in communities and throughout the Cooperative Extension System.