In Palm Beach County, Fla., reaching from the Atlantic Ocean beachfront to Lake Okeechobee, more and more people are exercising an important muscle: civic muscle.
This community of 1.5 million is committed to the idea that all residents, particularly those who have been excluded from seats of power, can participate in problem-solving and decision-making to build a Culture of Health.
“Residents lead and determine what better health looks like for them,” said Jeanette Marshall, project director for Healthier Neighbors, part of a community-based initiative called Healthier Together, which works to set and activate residents’ priorities. Palm Beach County, she added, now has a process for people “to speak and be heard and see the change that they want to see.”
Examples of residents driving priorities abound. They’re focusing on policies and practices around behavioral and mental health, racial equity, and cradle-to-career advancements for children and young people.
There’s Freslaine St. Louis, a church youth leader in Delray Beach, who was concerned about the emotional well-being of people in the Haitian community. As a Creole speaker, she became trained in mental health first aid, helped others to also receive training, and now serves as project coordinator for BeWellPBC, which brings residents to the table with funders and service providers to improve the community’s behavioral health.