Active Ottumwa Podcast Episode 2
Hannah Shultz: Welcome to A Community on the Move: The Story of Active Ottumwa. Active Ottumwa is a community-based research project that encourages all adults to be more active. Ottumwa community members, and the University of Iowa used the latest research to design this project. The research project for Active Ottumwa has concluded but the Active Ottumwa program continues under the leadership of Hy-Vee of Ottumwa and with the positive support of community organizations. In this series we’re learning from people involved in the project about what worked well, what they learned along the way, and the impact Active Ottumwa had on the community. Over the next 10 episodes, we will talk about many aspects of the Active Ottumwa project to learn about the successes, challenges, lessons learned, pride, and humility that went into this project. My name is Hannah Schultz and I am the host for this series, and I’m learning about this program along with you. I work at the University of Iowa College of Public Health but have not been affiliated with Active Ottumwa until we started planning this podcast series. Working on this series has been a joy. I’ve been impressed every step of the way, by the passion, commitment, dedication, and persistence of all involved in this project. and I am very excited to share this with you. One of the many reasons I’ve been impressed by this project and am so excited to share it with you is the active participation and inclusion of people representing many different communities, organizations, and interests in Ottumwa. The focus of Active Ottumwa was on physical activity, which came out of a community survey highlighting that this was a need for the community. The project used community resources to promote and support active living and physical activity across the community. 20:05:46 Today I’ll be talking with members of Active Ottumwa Community Advisory Board, known as the CAB.
Our guest today are Kim Hellige, who is the community programs director for the Ottumwa school district, and she’s also president of the Wapello county trails Council. We’re also joined by Himar Hernandez who serves as the assistant program director of the community development specialist team at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. And last but not least we’re joined by Garrett Ross. When Garrett became involved in Active Ottumwa, he was the membership and marketing director of the Ottumwa family YMCA he’s now the CEO executive director of the Y. All three of our guests were active CAB representatives from their respective organizations since the beginning of Active Ottumwa, and they continue to support the program today. We also have to Prevention Research Center staff with us. Sandy Berto, the former field coordinator who lives and works in Ottumwa and coordinated activities there and Becky Bucklin the project manager of Active Ottumwa. Kim, Himar, Garrett thank you so much for joining us today. So, for listeners who have who didn’t listen to our first episode which we gave an overview of the Active Ottumwa project. I’d like to do a quick review of the project and what the Prevention Research Center is. So, Becky I’m going to direct the first couple of questions to you. What is the Prevention Research Center, where are you, housed any other important information that you think our listeners should have?
Becky Bucklin: There are 25 prevention research centers across the nation, and they’re funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and basically each one of these centers really the main goal of them is to identify public health problems and to test evaluate and implement interventions in communities to kind of help, specifically with underserved populations, improve the health outcomes of these individuals and to also translate and share the evidence base of coming out of these prevention research centers with communities. So then the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center we’re house at the University of Iowa College of Public Health in the community and behavioral health department. And we really work with rural communities throughout the state of Iowa and then the surrounding states, and specifically we have a focus on micropolitan communities.
Hannah Shultz: We will hear the term micropolitan a few times as it’s a key part of how Ottumwa was chosen as well as how the communities for Active Iowa were selected. Becky explains more about what it actually means.
Becky Bucklin: So micropolitan communities, some of them, they’re actually most of the time considered rural by the US Census Bureau so the US Census Bureau kind of has urban and rural they only have these like two, like bigger categories. But micropolitan for the most part are on the rural side and a lot of what the US Census Bureau will classify as rural America actually exists in micropolitan communities and I think Rima was talking about that in the very beginning of this conversation where, I think, it is about 60% of rural residents in the United State actually live in these micropolitan communities. And so these micropolitan communities, they, as we talked about before they actually function in Iowa, as kind of, they’re not really small towns they’re actually bigger towns for the state of Iowa because Iowa is mainly rural, we have so many counties that are considered rural, but because they are kind of bigger towns for the context of Iowa, but they’re considered rural for the most part, by the US Census Bureau. They actually serve as hubs, where people from surrounding areas, surrounding rural areas, come and get their hospital care or receive Social Services, or go to the convention center so, Ottumwa, even though it would be considered rural because it’s less than 50,000 people, even though Ottumwa would be considered rural, it has its own convention center, it has a Parks and Rec department that has tons of parks and facilities throughout the community, and it has a local YMCA that people can go and be active at. It has a Community Action Organization housed in Ottumwa that actually reaches out to other communities around a ton of other micropolitan community around Ottumwa they have a whole region and so because it’s kind of a hub for more rural areas that actually can reach further into rural communities, by, by offering services and having activities within the rural or within the micropolitan community itself. Ottumwa is a micropolitan community in the southeast corner of Iowa, and we work with communities in partnership to help design and implement interventions to hopefully improve community health.
Hannah Shultz: Why did the Prevention Research Center choose Ottumwa and how did you start working in the community?
Becky Bucklin: Ottumwa has a lot of resources that can be tapped into a lot of existing infrastructure amongst the organizations that were people were already starting to work, well, not even starting, people have been working with each other for years already. And really, we felt that they could, we could learn a lot from them and they could learn a lot from us which, in a partnership at the PRC was trying to get started I think that that was one of the main drivers of why Ottumwa was chosen and then why also I think Ottumwa welcomes the PRC.
Kim Hellige: You know, I’d like to add we were also involved at that time, with a submitting an application to be recognized as a Blue Zone community. And so it was, it was kind of serendipitous that the University of Iowa approached our community of at about the same time that we were working on that process. And so those things really aligned together. And seem to be a good fit. And although we weren’t selected to be a Blue Zone community, the partnership with the University of Iowa really turned out to be probably a better fit for our community.
Hannah Shultz: Several times throughout these conversations different people mentioned Blue Zones. Blue Zone communities meet certain criteria for healthy living. Blue Zones have things like bike lanes, workplaces that prioritize well-being, hoping to make the healthy choice the easy choice for community members. We’re going to switch gears here just a bit and talk about the research part of this project, how the CAB was involved, and how the partnership inherent in Community Based Participatory Research developed.
Becky Bucklin: Our research project is a Community Based Participatory Research project or a CBPR. They’re a true partnership where they’re supposed to be a true partnership between the researchers and the community leaders or the people in the community who are a part of the project. And so at every step of the way, throughout the initial formative planning, throughout the actual planning of the project, throughout the implementation of the project if there are any problems or if we’re going to change something from that planning stage, as well as throughout the evaluation, and through the interpretation of the results after we do analyze the results of the evaluation, the community should be involved throughout the entire process and so not only are they given the information to respond to, but they’re actively a part of gaining a lot of that information and making all of those planning decisions with us together. The community really brings their knowledge of the community in which they live up the resources that exist, of the context of the community of the thoughts, ideas and beliefs of the community members, and then the researchers we bring the piece of knowing a little bit and having access to evidence base research articles and our knowledge of how to analyze data and create survey some of these, these other tests, not that community members can’t do those things, but we also are learning together throughout so will, it’s a really back and forth or each side brings their knowledge together to really make the project happen.
Hannah Shultz: Had you been involved in Community Based Participatory Research before or was this a new experience for you all?
Garrett Ross: This would be a new experience for myself.
Kim Hellige: This It was a new experience for me as well.
Himar Hernandez: This Work for university with research so it wasn’t first for me, but it was at the level that it was a different experience, definitely from before. I think what made these successful and I’ve seen some other research projects, not go as well as this one, was to have the Community Advisory Board, to have community by, and to, to the show that this is something that we own as a community, even though we were there was partnership and there was research involved, it was something that we wanted to do, locally to change and to move the needle, when it comes to physical activity to better the health of our residents so I think there’s different perception when you go into community and you don’t have a local buy in, or if it’s seen as an imposition or you would have been studied versus no, this is something that we deserve this is something that we want. We have decision making, and we have input on the way, this is done and what we want these to look like.
Garrett Ross: Yeah, and I would agree with Hilmar. I mean, I think it’s really important that our community that we have many resources, it was great to be able to pull on the data resources from the University of Iowa through the Prevention Research Center as well too but it’s really imperatively important in a project like this, just like Himar was saying that you do have the community buy in, because even though they have the data on what was successful in the past, a we know our community we know our people and it’s important that you meet them where they’re at. So making sure to have that kind of market understanding is really important to see success to know where you need to start with, and really individually meet that community and its members as necessary so it was, it was a really important part of the process.
Kim Hellige: I echo what Himar and Garrett both said, and one of the things that really impressed me throughout the entire process was that it was really ours. As far as, you know, the ownership. So the CAB led the meetings, they weren’t really led by the University staff. You know we we’ve served a very active role in the entire process during the during the grant years. And, and I think because of that partnership between the CAB and the University. I think that helped to make the project even more successful.
Hannah Shultz: So who is involved in the CAB? How were you all identified?
Becky Bucklin: We have an organization, we have 10 organizations who are part of the CAB, and actually all of those organizations one of the I think the special things about our, our Community Advisory Board that you don’t see a lot of CBPR projects is that our organizations actually all of them stayed involved throughout the entire five-year grant, and a lot of them have stayed involved beyond, though the actual like person who is the point person from each organization has changed the organization themselves felt that this was important enough to stay a part of and find a new person to fill the role as positions changed. So, we did have an organizational CAB, which means that we have leaders from organizations who are stakeholders in organizations who are part of our CAB.
Hannah Shultz: So I’m really impressed by the breadth of the CAB, you have business, schools, nonprofit local government. You’ve got the University Extension. So, you have a pretty you know broad base there. So, I’m curious to hear from the CAB members. Why? What was it about the way that CAB function that you all decided, or your organizations decided it was important to stay involved for several years?
Garrett Ross: You know, it is one of those things you know, even when the YMCA was first approached about this project and my position at the YMCA at the time it was a conversation about so there’s this research organization that wants to come into the community and offer free fitness classes, and it was like, they want to what excuse me you know and so there was almost, you know, concern and trepidation by the administration here like is this going to be competition for us you know. Little did we know the kind of partnership that would really bloom and blossom out of PRC coming to Ottumwa, and it was really one of those things where our goals aligned so well. And it really was more about seeing success markers for our community and overall health and wellness. And that’s, that’s what the YMCA is here to do it’s really important that we make sure that we see wellness move forward in our community, and we know that we’ve got some strides to make here and we aren’t able to serve everybody and how do we make sure that we extend our reach. And we make sure that we engage more people here in our community and meet them where they’re at. So it’s a really important thing for the vitality of our community moving forward. So the YMCA definitely wanted to stay a part of this process. And not only that, I’m going to go back to what Kim was saying as well to once we once I became part of the CAB, it was very apparent how much we were the drivers of this, we were the, we were the group that made sure that we made the decisions, and it was really supported strongly by the University and that made all the difference to me.
Himar Hernandez: Twofold for me, one was working with underserved audiences, it was, you know, a notion that you had to know that you couldn’t afford going to a gym, then they would know things that you could do to to do to promote your health care, and your active and so I think this was one component got me excited, the same way I, you know, I wouldn’t have supported something that was in competition with the Y. I love going to the Y but there’s much more in the community to add to when they’re ready to do just the trails and they know I did not use; I didn’t know use the trails at the time and now I go, you know, weekly, I love that thing. Just awareness of what we have and it’s just amazing how many opportunities, physical activity and social interaction even today there are that that needed that push that needed that rejection and promotion as well so it’s just something was from the personal but also working with the audience’s what they do is that they were going to work, and they were standing up in the line all day and they said well if that’s our physical activity. Well, you know, no, there’s some things you can do our side of the work time to, and it helps also mentally right and when you’re if you’re working and you’re counting that physical activity that’s great but it’s that been good for your mental health or do you need to disconnect that to work or on the weekends or with your kids or with your family, so I’ve seen, I’ve seen an increase in the, in the, in the use of this, if nothing else, the trails and maybe that’s just my perception but just, It is just something I’ve noticed, I think I used to tell Kim at the beginning it’s like, it’s lonely out there. And now I don’t know maybe these features, but I think I even noticed before this virus that there was more use of the trails, more families, more diversity of people using you know retiree and people within the babies and it’s just so enriching to have that.
Kim Hellige: For the school district, you know the alignment with some of the efforts that we were making in that area, made this kind of a no brainer for us. We had been active in restructuring our physical education program for a number of years. We had received several grants, both at the state and federal levels to help us restructure what PE look like so. We were looking at, at things like making sure that all children were engaged throughout the PE period instead of some of those former structures like having kids stand in line or you know you’d play an activity where somebody would be out until they be sitting on the sidelines. So really having more of a focus on keeping all the students, physically active during the majority of the of their physical activity period. We also have a wellness policy team that’s required of all districts in the state. And so it was good to have people that represented Active Ottumwa that were assisting us with that process as well, and even doing some things before and after school like walking clubs and some of our elementary schools, and some of the some of those activities that we were doing, as the CAB was being formed and as we were you know getting our project up and running really aligned with some of the efforts of the district was doing. We also saw some benefits some side benefits as well. We receive some support through some curriculum activities. So for example at Evans Middle School we received a curriculum that helped us again with engaging students during their PE time. And then, and then some other resources as well I remember being connected with a research project for concession stands and so again just, you know, not only the Active Ottumwa project but then some of those side benefits of our partnership, you know, having access to some of the University departments, so that we could enhance some of our programs, and from a personal, you know standpoint, because I am involved with the trails council, you know, that was kind of a natural connection for me personally because I’m, I’m really interested in in health and fitness of the community. We’ve worked really hard to establish a trail system along the Des Moines river. And we kind of jokingly in our group talk about you know if you build it they will come. And so Himar talks a little bit about, you know, not seeing people, you know, sometimes I think if you’re not really noticing or you know if you’re not a user you’re not aware of some of those resources. And so by being involved with Active Ottumwa you know I saw that as an opportunity to also promote the work that we were doing on the trails council to encourage people to get out and walk and bike and, you know, and, and this is not against the Y, but you know sometimes you know you don’t need a Y membership to be physically active and so I think I think all of us on the CAB, you know the ultimate goal was just to increase physical activity any way that we could. And so, you know, the trail system is free for community to use. Some people use it for recreation Some people use it as a mode of transportation to get to work. And like Himar said, we’ve got families that are using it we’ve got youth. Diversity can be seen on our trails. And so for me, the involvement with the CAB met a lot of just made a lot of sense both personally and for the organization that I represent.
Hannah Shultz: You all mentioned in some way that the goals of your organizations and the goals of Active Ottumwa really aligned so it made it a really, really perfect fit. I’m curious if the goals aligned because the goals of Active Ottumwa just naturally aligned with what you all do, or if the Community Advisory Board had a role in defining what those goals were?
Garrett Ross: Coming from the YMCA’s perspective, I would say there’s a natural organic alignment of health and wellness, overall, and obviously you know the YMCA is more than just sweat and wet, we do so much more than that but it’s important to us as well to that it does seem weird for us to say that you’re absolutely right, you don’t need a Y membership to stay active and stay healthy and we want to make sure to promote that standard as well too. And so it’s kind of an underlying tone that I believe was there to begin with but one that did kind of develop from our CAB as well that we’ve got so much available here in our community, and I think we just need to highlight it. We need to make sure that more people understand the, not just the acceptable trails, we have the exceptional trails that we have the network. The quality of them. The location of them. I mean, all you have to do is walk along the levee trail, which is just beautiful, and the scenery is incredible you do it the right time of the year, and you can just watch the bald eagles fly and hunt right over the Des Moines river and it’s just, it’s all inspiring and so I think as you said before with the pandemic it’s bringing to light a lot of important things that people had forgotten about that people had lost in the busy hustle and bustle life and it was just easy for it too easy for people to become and complacent and how their life was functioning. And so, with so many of these things happening. I believe that Active Ottumwa though came in with this goal really become late became laser focused because of the CAB on the goals that we really surrounded, as well. So I guess to answer it would be kind of kind of organic, by, by nature of what they came in to do, but also the CAB really focused to make sure that it really met the needs of Ottumwa, and highlighted what we truly do have to offer here in our community.
Becky Bucklin: So even though you don’t need a Y membership we actually did have quite a few participants who ended up getting Y memberships but didn’t have them before and so one of the big things that we found through Active Ottumwa if we like look at that statistical significance that us researchers really like. We did find that there was a pull from light physical activity or from sedentary activity to light physical activity. So we’re getting people who are the most sedentary to start moving is kind of what we found and we will talk probably about that in the evaluation podcast, but really we got a lot of people to start moving and when people start moving, they want more so like the trails are such a great resource in Ottumwa, but then also if they want to start mixing it up a little bit and not just walking the next best thing is to start going to the Y and doing a little bit more if they continue their journey on onwards, so we actually do have a lot of participants as well as even some of our Physical Activity Leaders who previously have we’ve heard and testimonials from them that they would never been caught dead and the Y and now they have memberships, and they were there like every day I’m sure.
Garrett Ross: Absolutely i mean there was a lot of benefits of that I mean from the Y’s perspective that we know that there’s only so many people in our local community that were interested in a Y membership and health and wellness at that level and so we only stood to benefit when we start to talk about that light physical activity. Let’s engage more people and give them that opportunity and you’re right, people start to exercise more they move to that light physical activity, and they feel more comfortable they feel better they feel happier and healthier and there’s so many health benefits that come along with that. And so it is kind of a springboard for a lot of people as well and some, like you were saying I mean some of our, our PALs and some of our participants, I mean, you would have swore that we were slipping them a 20 to promote the Y, but we really weren’t you know I mean, it truly was this this organic feeling that they wanted to become part of that. And just like you said it probably the best they felt as though they truly deserve a better, healthier and more active life, so it was a great partnership that really supported the Y’s work as well too.
Hannah Shultz: You talked about it only benefits the Y when you target that specific population and I think one of the interesting things about your Community Advisory Board is, you know, the scope of your business you have nonprofit you have schools, because those different sectors or those specific organizations as well-defined benefit in very different ways. So thinking through how the Community Advisory Board could come together and identify what benefits the community over the bottom line of the organizations or the specific goals of the organizations is really powerful when looking at uplifting the health of a whole community.
One of the goals for this series is to be one of the tools Active Iowa communities can use when they’re developing their own programs, talking with the Community Advisory Board members about their commitment and responsibilities, was really helpful for me as your host to think through how to develop CABs and other places.
Himar Hernandez: I think you’d be to be representative of all the sectors, I think we, we talked about that in the beginning just being inclusive and have a good balance of nonprofits and educational system the city, you know, other government other educational institutions, just make sure it’s well represented. You know, the question is asked who’s not here that should be here. And, you know, to volunteer positions of people have to be energized and willing to be positive and open minded and bring their energy and positive input to the table. You know, and that they’re not going to see results the first day, so it’s a process right and it’s going to take time to see the results and. And so, with everything you have to be patient, but it will make a difference in in that community.
Garrett Ross: I would agree with you Himar as well too I think probably the biggest thing that I would say is comparatively important when you’re creating and designing your CAB as well to is find the cheerleaders, find the people that this work is innately important to them. In both their professional life, but in their personal life as well. It’s, it’s a really important factor that the CAB members feel a personal stake in this work, and they’re going to work diligently to move it forward that they’re going to be thinking about these things on the weekends. In the evenings, and they’re going to come to the next meeting with an aha moment, a what about this? It’s really important that people have that kind of buy in as part of the CAB, as well. And you can really get their input from a standpoint that they want to see the community, improve. They really want to make a difference, and they want to see it become better. So, you can connect with an organization and you can say hey can you delegate us an individual, and that’s great, as well. But I think it’s really important, not just what organizations you involve, but it is also extremely important the people from those organizations that you involved as well too.
Kim Hellige: One of the things that I have done over the years when like our wellness policy team and some of those other things. Look for people not only who are advocates, but the people who walk the walk, because I mean you have to you have to have some passion for this topic. Because I think if you have passion for it, you will be, you will be much more likely to stay engaged to be you know actively involved. And, and you’ll benefit as well as the organization in the community in a broader sense. And on a side note and I don’t know if this is really advice or not, but one of the advantages that I saw to for being involved was just the learning that took place, I know I learned a lot about activity and the cab process and just about public health. So, there were there was a lot of growth for me as a person, as well, which I think is a big benefit, so you know if you’re interested in public health initiatives or if you’re interested in you know physical activity, in general, I mean there’s just there’s just a lot of benefits to being involved in a project in a, in a process, system and a program, whatever you want to call them like this, if that makes sense.
Hannah Shultz: I asked our guests about how they CAB functioned at an operational and governance level, I was curious about how they came together and make decisions and evolved.
Becky Bucklin: We did have bylaws that CAB organizations did sign at least yearly we also did send out evaluations to all of our CAB members yearly just to kind of see what was going on with the CAB what were they thinking how were we operating as a CAB are we doing that efficiently? And then we would share those results with the Community Advisory Board, and we would discuss what we found. So of course, being University, we have to have our, our numbers and things that we like but also, I think it did really open up some areas for us to talk about where we can improve and really start some open, honest conversations about how we continue to grow together.
Himar Hernandez: Yeah, we functioned as a regular board I mean we had the officers and I did appreciate that yearly report. When I was the chair, I know that was something I was shown the results and I addressed some of the things that you know some suggestions that things could better or any concerns, so it wasn’t just a document published, it was something that we took seriously and took action on and so that was, that was a really good piece of evaluation for the board.
Garrett Ross: The thing that would probably be different from standard boards that I’d be either served on or supported as well would really just be the, the immense amount of support that came from the University staff. It was really one of those things where the University staff that incredible job of coming alongside us, and supporting us and a lot of those things and getting us answers and communicating with us, and giving us guidance, when we weren’t quite sure where to go. Even Active Ottumwa first started, and the PRC was kind of starting out and its fledgling phases, it was, it was very ambiguous where it was going to be going. And so, they really help support us in kind of the direction that what should we be doing, what is the best thing to be doing, you know?
Hannah Shultz: CAB members attended monthly meetings and most members served on subcommittees. There have always been ways to stay involved between meetings and our guest today shared many of the ways they were engaged. From cheerleading, to Buster the bus from the Y doing community events in support of Active Ottumwa, to promoting the program in general and specific ways. They estimated a time commitment of about three to five hours per month. The CAB also had officers who had additional responsibilities of course, but the CAB members we talked with are very passionate about the program and we’re happy to share their time with their community. I was curious why this was, and asked what made the CAB so successful?
Sandy Berto: In my opinion, just that true ownership of the involvement of the PRC, and to not only have the vision to help collect the data that the research aspect of the program gathered, but also that just real ownership of contributing to that good health of Ottumwa. There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good things here in Ottumwa and I think the CAB members for Active Ottumwa truly are really very representative of that.
Garrett Ross: Like we said you know it’s it’s we’ve all got a personal stake in it as CAB members and it’s important to us as individuals as well. But even when Active Ottumwa first came in and the PRC came into Ottumwa there was some concern of trepidation by the community as a whole and saying, who is this organization, what are they, what are they here to do. And nobody really knew what we were trying to accomplish here what we were here to do, and they were there was quite a few people who were very skeptical. And I think part of organizations like the school district, like the Y, like ISU extension, and our local clinics and healthcare providers, coming around the PRC, and Active Ottumwa gave credibility to what we were trying to accomplish. It helped everybody kind of say, oh okay well alright so they’re doing stuff with them as well too so all right they’re good they’re good. It just helped the community feel a little bit safer. And it wasn’t just like somebody was coming in and trying to change what we were doing or try to do something different that was already happening. They came in to really support boost work that was already going on, maybe not in a strong way, but really build it up, and a much stronger way, as well. So I think that’s probably one of the important factors that really built strength, and our CAB.
Becky Bucklin: I’m going to add just a little bit that I think a huge thing was the longevity of the program. So a lot of grants do tend to be shorter and this is as grants go especially research grants go five years is a pretty long time. So there was already a lot of existing you know partnerships in Ottumwa a lot of the individuals on our CAB did already know one another but in what from other meetings and other boards I’m sure they were a part of, but this was one group that stayed together basically for five whole years and really met monthly on this regular, consistent basis. So I think it’s that longevity and that consistency. But these don’t have like programs like this don’t happen overnight and things don’t actually move that quickly when you’re trying to make big environmental changes and behavior changes of a whole community and so seeing the little successes along the way but also still sticking through it when it doesn’t feel like we’re making that much progress, I think, was one of the things I’m is very inspirational about our CAB.
Hannah Shultz: One of the things that was new for many of the CAB members and that took a bit of learning was understanding the research criteria for the program and understanding implementation science related to behavior change.
Himar Hernandez: I think it was for me at least, challenging was, I had done programming before in communities, but they hadn’t done anything at the time they to health care or health improvement. And I myself was not there in that, you know, so it was hard to for me to, to understand the importance of physical activity or when myself was not in the mindset yet. And so, so that was challenging but I think once I got it and once, we figure it out. You know what this was going to look like for the long-term and the long-term impacts. Then it was an absolutely buy in from my perspective, and it was really reassuring that to see everybody else at the table that you know that I wasn’t doing this alone that there’s a support for everybody that everybody was new to these are worth you know, working on these together. So, that’s the ability of members of the CAB helped a lot because he was reassuring that we were doing the right thing versus you know people leaving and questioning and so, but so it was hard trying to wrap my mind about what the project was or how we’re going to change behavior so hard to change habits and behaviors. So that was, that was difficult for me the beginning.
Garrett Ross: Probably where I feel like there was more of a challenge is myself coming into understanding myself what, what was the PRC his goal, what was Active Ottumwa’s goal. What were we truly trying to accomplish. and coming from an organization you know that’s I mean we’re cradle to grave where I mean we’re working with we’re doing childcare for these little kids, we’re doing physical activity programming for people with Parkinson’s disease and so I mean we’re, we’re everywhere in between and so you know when we start talking about, okay, this is a research-based health focused type of project, and not thinking about anybody under the age of 18 like it almost didn’t compute to me sometimes you know like what we don’t care about the kids now and it has nothing to do with that you know it’s a kind of the focus on the research and that was a little bit different to me. Once again coming from a nonprofit background a lot like yourself. I don’t know my heart’s and a lot of, a lot of my work. And so, I know the people that I’m used to caring about, and then I want to make sure that we are taking care of as the YMCA. So kind of being a little bit more specific and focused was difficult for me, and making sure that we want to see these outcomes in these areas. Yeah and hopefully by osmosis, we’re going to see improvement in those other areas as well too but this is our focus. So that was kind of challenging for me to get a little bit more specific understanding of what we were trying to accomplish as part of this project.
Himar Hernandez: We don’t have a recreation department here in Ottumwa, right. We know what I have learned a lot through this process, that, that the activity, it’s in hands, if there’s a social component to it or social support component to it. I mean, I just love going to the YMCA classes, because you see people there and there with you and even, even now so versus doing my own basement, I will, I try that, and then it lasted just a week and I just get bored. I sweat it and I was burning calories, but he didn’t have that fun and social. So I think this is something that we didn’t have here that Active Ottumwa brought in was the social component of to add that to the physical activity as an enhancement and it also increased participation and so, and they know the Y has that component as well but we didn’t have it in the community at large. Through the through the city, and I know that’s something we’re looking at changing thanks to Active Ottumwa.
Hannah Shultz: As funding for Active Ottumwa comes to a close and the University of Iowa researchers aren’t able to spend as much time and resources supporting the community’s work. The CAB began to think about how to continue the program.
Kim Hellige: So when we knew that we were getting close to the end of the five-year grant period. We knew that we needed to make some decisions about how to continue to sustain Active Ottumwa. And so, that process involved talking to several organizations and local businesses. And at the end of that process Hy-Vee seem to be the best fit, and they have a strong interest in in moving Active Ottumwa forward and it seemed like it would complement what they were doing as far as their store nutrition program services that they offered. And so, and so Hy-Vee then took over that process.
Hannah Shultz: I’m just going to jump in real quick to say things are going to be a bit confusing once in a while because there are two important Becky’s involved with this program. Becky Bucklin who we’ve been hearing from works at the University of Iowa. Garrett is about to mention Becky Graeve, who works at the Hy-Vee in Ottumwa.
Garrett Ross: Yeah, the CAB actually identified a couple of organizations that we felt as though, would be a good fit for coming around activity, and continuing on into the future as well. So, and even in even making statement kind of referencing the previous conversation as well too. And Becky’s reach reached out to me several times just on an individual basis like looking for some support and hey what do you think about this, we’re talking about kind of kicking this back up. What do you think about that? You know even as a sounding board. And I know she’s reached out to several other board members that way as well to just to kind of get a feel for what our thoughts are and the direction as well too. So maybe it might not be something about so specifically cohesive as an individual meeting. I know that she’s been in direct contact with each one of us and getting our input on a lot of the decisions that they’ve been making as well too.
Kim Hellige: So When we approached Hy-Vee and when Hy-Vee committed to taking over Active Ottumwa the expectation was that you know if Hy-Vee wanted, we all felt strongly about you know maintaining the CAB and assisting them not only through the transition but just, again, assisting them as we continue Active Ottumwa on. Because of COVID and the timing of everything, you know some of those things have kind of been probably put on the back shelf. But I know from my from, you know, from Ottumwa’s Community School District, and personally, and I’m sure from the other two as well, you know, I think we all have a commitment to see Active Ottumwa move forward and would be willing to do what we can to assist Hy-Vee in that transition.
Hannah Shultz: After talking about the role of the CAB and the context of the larger project and hearing about the impact on the community, I was really interested in hearing how being a part of the CAB impacted each of our guests.
Garrett Ross: I would say how Active Ottumwa has impacted me has really broadened by understanding of community health, and not just my understanding of it of my interest in it as well. It changes my perspective, from a YMCA perspective, even from the first time I came back from a CAB meeting and I went to my Executive Director at the time and I said, hey, this is really awesome I’m so excited to tell you more about this CAB board and Active Ottumwa and all these things are going to be happening. And even he was skeptical you know once again I kind of had that feeling of so they’re going to offer free classes and the community that sounds like competition and, and it’s like no no no no no I mean it’s really not about that. And it’s helped broaden my scope and understanding of how we can make our community a better place, and how our organization, the YMCA, can impact that in a much greater way than we have in the past. It changes how we look at things. One of the important things that the why, that we talked about a lot of benefit statements. And the benefit statement of a program is why we do what we do. So, it has much more to do with mission, and a lot less to do with dollars and cents, and it changes, probably almost like that strategy screen for us to start a program here at the Y, we want to make sure these conditions are met. And it added a layer to that. In terms of how are we, affecting everybody in our community in a more positive way. And so, absolutely, I would say it’s changed how we look at our programs and maybe how we can broaden that impact and taking on our community, and everybody in it as a, maybe, non-active Y member, essentially that our community is all part of the Y, so how do we affect them and engage them in much better ways than we have. So absolutely.
Kim Hellige: Active Ottumwa has impacted me and in several ways. Personally, I’m going to echo what Garrett said a little bit about. I have a much better understanding of public health than I did before. You know I of course you know we’ve heard the term and I’ve been on committees with our Public Health Director throughout the years. But I really don’t think I had a really clear understanding of what that really meant until I became involved with the CAB. And so I appreciate you know just having a better understanding of how that system works. And of course, through COVID with my role with the school district, you know, I mean, building that relationship with those with those people and having an understanding what their role is has really helped us with some of the processes that we’re trying to go through to deal with the pandemic. You know, through the school district. Understanding of research that that’s something that’s totally outside my wheelhouse. And so being involved in this project has given me a little glimpse into that into that world. I don’t think it’s a world I would want to live in, but I appreciate having a little bit better understanding about how we collect data. You know how we look at things how things are chewed up, you know, as we’re trying to figure out impact on you know impact of a program on our, you know in our community. So I really appreciated that. And then just, you know, having the opportunity to learn more about this the CDC too, you know, and again just you know have a little bit better understanding of that broader scope of community health.
Himar Hernandez: I don’t think I could put in better words that what Garrett and Kim have done, have said. I think it’s all applies. And it just gave me, you know more tools to help population that I work with, where we have some somebody that that is just always troubling in terms of diabetes and overweight. And so really gave me tools to help population and it was a journey for me as well, like I said, I’m very active now. I ride my work, my bike to work every day I use the trails every you know at least every other day for sure. And then just really enjoy it and so it was also the impact that has had in me, which then just helps it be more meaningful in sustainability as we go on because hopefully I you know I share that experience with other people and, and we know you know that people are watching leaders in the community and we can become models. And so, I yeah everything that was said, plus the personal experiences as well. I mean, I wasn’t going to the, to the Y I was an l don’t think I was a member at that time either. And just to see the data you know was eye opening. And I’m you know be supportive of using data for decision making. And that was something that they, the University, always did well was to always give us the data and then let us decide what we wanted to do with that data and how we were going to respond. Thank you for, you know, giving our community this opportunity and just the staff has been amazing, all through and continues to be amazing. Without them, you know, it will be impossible for us to find our footing I think they provide us the resources and the research. It wasn’t so much about the money. It was about opening our eyes and exposing us to whether other communities are doing, best practices. That you can really move the needle. And I think that’s this was just very viable so thank you for that.
Kim Hellige: Without the great staff that we worked with, with Active Ottumwa through the University of Iowa. You know, I just don’t think we would have had the successes that we had. And you know, and I think along the way we built some, some really strong relationships with will as Becky and Himar have already talked about you know it’s already kind of spilled over into some other projects. And I know I still hear from Becky sometimes you know for some things that I’m involved with as far as trails. And I know I can reach out to other staff members if I have questions about something that might connect with the school district. So you know there’s just so many side benefits as well, not only just the impact of Active Ottumwa as a project in our community but also just through those relationships. So we really appreciate everything that’s happened and come out of Active Ottumwa being in a Ottumwa.
Hannah Shultz: Early in our conversation today, Himar said you won’t see results the first day. Today and throughout this series we hear about a lot of impressive things that have happened throughout this project. For communities that are looking to start similar programs, it’s important to remember these stories are being shared after five years of work, learning, and community building. I’m so grateful to Kim, Himar, and Garrett for sharing their time with us and with Active Ottumwa
Thank you for tuning in. Thanks to the Midwestern Public Health Training Center for production support, the team at the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health, the Ottumwa community, and the many guests and contributors we talk with throughout these 10 episodes. See the podcast notes for more information about Active Ottumwa, and to connect with our team. This podcast is a product of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center, supported by cooperative agreement number U84DP006389 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions in this podcast are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.