Community Unity in Action: Keepin’ it Real Healthy

The American Heart Association works collaboratively with organizations and community leaders across Virginia to improve the health of all. AHA is an organizational member of Richmond based Community Unity in Action (CUIA) – a collective comprised of more than 20 non-profits with five focus areas to advance food justice within the Food Justice Corridor. The focus areas include: Community Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Workforce and Education Training Services, Re-Entry from Incarceration, and Housing. The Food Justice Corridor is amidst a concentration of public housing where the life expectancy for residents is as much as 20 years shorter than affluent residents. This is in part due to the in disproportionate burden of chronic disease such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes upon Black and Brown communities. Every person deserves the opportunity for a full, healthy life. As champions for health equity, the American Heart Association is addressing the drivers of health disparities, including the SDOH, and structural racism to truly achieve equitable health and well-being for all.

The AHA worked with the Richmond Housing and Redevelopment Authority to lessen the disproportionate burden of chronic disease such as high blood pressure and heart disease in key portions of the city. The American Heart Association is dedicated to working alongside our community leaders to reverse these trends through policy, system, and environmental changes.  As the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage Richmond’s communities, CUIA recognized that a response which met vulnerable neighbors where they were was critical to maintain local health. Due to the built environment of most public housing residences, quarantining and maintaining social distancing requirements is difficult. To help face this challenge, they launched the “Keepin’ it Real Healthy” campaign, which featured 17 pop-up events or health and wellness stations in Creighton Court, Fairfield Court, Gilpin Court, Hillside Court, Mosby Court, Whitcomb Court, and eight senior communities. These included information on healthy diets and managing negative health indicators that make the community vulnerable to COVID-19, and also provided needed resources such as PPE, activities for children, and locally grown produce. The group also facilitated literature drops which provided health messaging on COVID-19 prevention, heart health, tobacco cessation, and healthy eating to 4,500 households. Through the KIRH campaign, we have met people where they are to help them have longer, healthier lives.