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Accomplishments, Challenges and Lessons Learned

In June 1996, The California Wellness Foundationís (TCWF) board of directors approved a five-year $20 million grantmaking program titled the Children and Youth Community Health Initiative (CYCHI).

The overall goal of the CYCHI was to improve the health of several communities in California by engaging children and youth in the transformation of their social, physical and chemical environments. Components of the Initiative included the Wellness Village Program, Community Wellness Enhancement Projects, the Technical Assistance Program, the Initiative Support Program and the Evaluation/Dissemination Program.

The CYCHI focused on youth development and capacity building to improve community health, and required the involvement of adult and youth residents in the planning, implementation and evaluation of projects and activities. Youth development, defined by the National Youth Development Information Center, is a process to prepare young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences that help them to become socially, morally, emotionally, physically and cognitively competent. A growing body of literature on youth development suggests that many young people who participate in youth development activities have better health outcomes than those who do not. In response to the emerging youth development movement, CYCHI emphasized a youth development approach that acknowledged youth as resources in communities and encouraged youth development in community-based, action-oriented projects. CYCHI Grantees were encouraged to look to young people as partners, rather than as clients, and involve youth in planning, implementing and evaluating wellness village efforts. Through participation in advisory committees and Initiative-related programs, young people developed substantive knowledge, practical skills and personal capacity in organizational development.

The Initiative promoted involvement in local advisory committees composed of adult and youth residents, community-based organizations, local colleges and universities. These committees established mechanisms for ongoing dialogues and decisionmaking, and served as a means to design and implement wellness village plans that included community health projects, mentoring programs and academic support programs. Using the World Health Organizationís definition of community health, wellness villages were encouraged to identify the factors that most influenced the overall health of their communities. Grantees were encouraged to look at community-driven efforts that focused on health for the whole community rather than at efforts that sought to change individual health behavior. Successful Wellness Villages understood the difference between active engagement of residents as stakeholders versus viewing residents as passive recipients of services.

There were two phases in the Initiative: planning and implementation. For the planning phase, the Initiative provided grants to 16 communities throughout California, which started on October 1, 1997, and continued for 18 months until March 31, 1999. During the planning phase, each community Grantee had three objectives: 1) convene a representative advisory group of residents and stakeholders to plan the wellness village; 2) conduct an asset-based community development plan to improve wellness in a specific geographic area; and 3) prepare a proposal to submit to TCWF for its wellness village plan. The 18-month planning grants involved almost 1,900 local residents in examining local conditions and planning changes that would improve and enhance health. The communities were assisted in their efforts by the Grantees for the Initiative Support, Technical Assistance and Evaluation/Dissemination Programs. Over the 18-month planning phase, each planning site completed a community visioning exercise and a plan to improve community health through youth action.

Staff and consultants reviewed the 16 wellness village grant applications, and three-person site visit teams spent a full day in each applicant community meeting with the local planning committee. Of the 16 communities, 10 were subsequently awarded grants to implement their wellness village designs over 3 Ĺ years; and six communities received grants to continue capacity building over another 18 months.

This report outlines the accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned during the CYCHIís five-year period that ended in September 2002. Goals and objectives are presented for each portion of the Initiative followed by staff analysis of what was actually accomplished. This report is organized according to the goals and objectives of the Children and Youth Community Health Initiative. At the conclusion of the three components, we reflect upon the accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned about the Initiative as a whole.

Frances Jemmott and Fatima Angeles, Program Directors
The California Wellness Foundation


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