Niagara University, in partnership with the City of Niagara Falls and the P2 Collaborative of Western New York, has been awarded an 18-month, $300,000 grant from The John R. Oishei Foundation for the implementation of "Creating a Healthier Niagara Falls: A Neighborhood Empowerment Approach."
The goal of the initiative is to improve the individual health and quality of life of residents in designated Niagara Falls neighborhoods by building a system of community-based resources and linkages. Implementation strategies will focus on leadership, environmental beautification, health and wellness, disease prevention and safety. The initiative will engage and build the capacity of residents to initiate projects that will improve their neighborhoods and create a healthy, livable and safe community. In addition, it will also alter how health care and human service agencies, municipal, community and faith-based organizations, and local businesses work together to increase the likelihood of achieving the goals of the project.
This initiative began in response to the severe health needs of the community as well as the increasing number of underinsured and uninsured patients who seek treatment during costly emergency room visits to Niagara Fall Memorial Medical Center. In 2009, Mayor Paul Dyster created the Task Group to Create a Healthier Niagara Falls, whose charge was to move from reactive, "emergent," hospital-based care in which people only access the health care system when they are already sick, to proactive, "preventive," community-based care. Building off the community health model initiated by a National Urban Fellow, the task group joined forces with the P2 Collaborative and Niagara University to apply for this grant.
Dyster stated, "We all know that reforming health care is one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. One of the keys to success will be changing our own psychology as consumers to minimize the need to access emergency care, and make better use of primary and preventive care resources already in place. That sounds easy, but it isn't. It takes a unified, coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach to bring about fundamental changes in human behavior."
"The success of a project of this importance will involve a great deal of collaboration between multiple stakeholders," explained Shelley Hirshberg, executive director of the P2 Collaborative of Western New York. "We are proud at the level of commitment and excitement by the stakeholders who have agreed to participate and lead what is expected to be a model for the country."
"As a university, we are deeply committed to the success and sustainability of our region," said the Rev. Joseph Levesque, C.M., president of Niagara University. "This project is particularly important because a community's sustainability and growth are intricately tied to the overall health and wellness of its residents."
"The John R. Oishei Foundation is very pleased to be a partner in this significant initiative that will foster a heightened level of collaboration among a wide array of service providers and support residents in driving the change they want to see in order to create a safer, healthier neighborhood," stated Robert D. Gioia, president of The John R. Oishei Foundation.