Community Engagement Strategies to Promote Environmental Publ ...

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Abstract

Reducing environmental exposures, improving the built environment, and encouraging residents to keep a “healthy home” are strategies that lead to sustainable community health, well-being and overall “age-friendliness” of a community. The New York University Grossman School of Medicine (NYUGSoM), Department of Environmental Medicine, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Core Center has partnered with the City of Garfield, NJ, to engage residents around the idea of “aging in place.” Aging in place (i.e., staying in their current home or community) is one of the most common requests made by older adults, and thus a healthy, sustainable built environment is vital to achieve their desire. Access to food, health care, and an easy to navigate local environment are all necessary aspects of aging in place. One of the goals of this community–academic partnership is to engage Garfield residents regarding the aforementioned strategies that can improve their local environment. The first step of this partnership was a questionnaire or needs assessment survey developed in collaboration with residents. The SoM Environmental Medicine Community Engagement Program conducted a community survey for older adult residents, entitled “55+ Community Survey” in Garfield to assess their needs and establish relevant goals for planned initiatives. Survey results were used to outline goals for the newly formed age-friendly initiative, Generations for Garfield, and as an important tool in advocating for the health and wellness of older adults. The results of the community survey, in combination with the success of the engagement strategies developed in Garfield, that is, pop-wellness centers, establishment of the engagement center, socialization and community-building opportunities, all reflect the importance of sustaining a healthy, environmentally sound and engaged city for residents of all ages.