InterIm’s healthy community plan looks at physical health, public safety, and mental-well being. • Courtesy Photos
InterIm’s healthy community plan looks at physical health, public safety, and mental-well being. • Courtesy Photos

After a year of research, InterIm CDA finally released its Seattle Chinatown-International District 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan. It’s holistic and comprehensive approach to health in the neighborhood, as well as its collaboration with a handful service provider organizations in the city, make this plan the first of its kind.

To view the InterIm CDA 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan, click here.

“We see this 2020 Healthy Community Action Plan as a tool for partners, the city, the county to say we recognized the issues and problems in this neighborhood and now these are the solutions,” said Valerie Tran, Healthy Communities Program Manager at InterIm. Tran was one of the authors of the plan.

The plan was born out of the need to characterize the problems and issues facing the Chinatown-International District (CID). It also came from the decision for InterIm and other organizations such as SCIDpda, International Community Health Services, Yesler Community Collaborative, and  to come together for the first time to design and implement a community health plan.

Tran said that often the City of Seattle comes to the neighborhood and asks organizations such as InterIm to help it engage with the community to present problems in the neighborhood.

“I’ve engaged for so long,” Tran said. “People get tired of being surveyed and asked the same questions and not seeing any response. Stop asking us what the problem is, start asking us what the solutions are. Hopefully the city can finally step up and take responsibility.”

The elaborated plan offers a survey of the neighborhood’s physical and social problems, strategies to combat them, examples of activities that support such strategies, and indicators to measure the outcomes of the strategies.

Health, in this plan, is taken as a holistic issue of physical health, physical safety, and mental well-being. The first sentence of the 27-page plan is a 1948 quote from the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

One striking fact presented in the plan is that the CID has the least amount of open and green space per person compared to any other neighborhood in Seattle. Such space that is available is often unsafe. According to this plan, it discourages residents of the CID to be physically active and hence is a contributor to an overall lack of opportunity for those living and working in the neighborhood to be healthy. In addition, the expansion of Hing Hay Park seemed to include more concrete than grass.

Tran said that in fall 2015, the organizations involved in this plan organized a “deep community engagement process” with over 300 residents, community leaders, and workers in the neighborhood as research for this plan. Each group was asked different topics. For example, a group of Danny Woo community gardeners was asked about access to green space, healthy foods, and barriers they faced in the neighborhood to be healthy. People who visited the Chinese Information Services Center, on the other hand, were asked questions pertaining to access to information and access to health care. But at the end of the day, their answers led to common conclusions: the CID is not a healthy neighborhood.

“So the most frequently mentioned issues were feeling unsafe being outside, feeling socially isolated, feeling like the neighborhood is really unclean—the sidewalks, the air, the smells, and just a general lack of opportunities to be healthy,” Tran said. “So despite having talked about different topics with each of those groups, the key barriers are the same. That’s what informed all of this.”

Last week, InterIm was awarded a $100,000 grant from BUILD Health, its original funder. Since then, Swedish—a partner—has exceeded their responsibility to match that amount and committed $120,000 toward the implementation phase of the plan set to kick off in 2017.

But Tran said that InterIm has already started thinking about how it’s going to fund implementation of this plan in 2018. “A lot of these solutions require capital investments, investments for social services, staff funding to do this advocacy,” she said.

InterIm is hoping that with this plan, the City of Seattle will not skip over the CID as it continues to grow and prosper. But this plan is for new developers that come in to the neighborhood, too.

“You’re coming into the neighborhood and if you claim that you want to know about the neighborhood, this is one thing you can read,” Tran said.

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