Creating a culture of health in our state cannot be done by one person or one entity. It takes a team of dedicated people who can motivate the community to get engaged and make healthy change happen. Cherokee County has made great strides in improving their obesity rate through a collaboration of many partners. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) noticed and offered one of those partners a chance to increase the momentum.
High school teacher Christina Cody was selected to participate in RWJF’s Culture of Health Leaders program in 2017. This highly competitive program is a leadership development opportunity for people working in every ﬁeld and profession who want to use their inﬂuence to advance health and equity. According to the RWJF website, “our leaders will be prepared to collaborate and provide transformative leadership to address health equity in their communities.”
In a rural county that didn’t have the best health indicators data, Cody became active in her community and used her influence as a teacher to help create fit2getherCCSD, a wellness initiative created by students. By joining forces with Eat Smart Move More Cherokee County, the public health taskforce of a local community organization, KNOW(2), Cody and her youth leaders began to make a difference.
“As a high school teacher and student wellness advocate, I believe youth empowerment and partnerships can create the Culture of Health all people deserve while also building tomorrow’s community leaders,” says Cody.
Through the Culture of Health Leaders program, Cody is connected to a national network of leaders in areas such as futures and change management, health equity, and social innovation. These leaders provide valuable knowledge and coaching to strengthen individual leadership plans. Cody’s plan consists of self-assessment, leadership development goals, and plans for continued growth and impact after the program is completed. During her third and final year of the program, she will implement a strategic Culture of Health initiative.
According to their website, Cody’s chosen initiative will focus on chronic disease and childhood obesity. She says, “My rural southeastern community of Cherokee County, faces chronic disease and childhood obesity trends that continue to plague our families, dangerously diminishing the quality of life for ethnically, socioeconomically, and geographically distributed groups. Our youth can be powerful forces in identifying community needs and in being agents of change. Students, schools, and partners can be collective impact champions in meeting those needs, ensuring that health for all is a priority.”
Christina Cody will be one of three keynotes speakers at the Leadership Summit for Healthy Communities, October 29-30, at the Spartanburg Marriott. She’ll provide insight into the RWJF Culture of Leaders program, and motivation for attendees to go home and have an impact on the health of their community. Catch her address on Tuesday, October 30 in Spartanburg.