Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Within Communities

Health Activists Walking Around

One of the most well-received messages within many communities is those centered around healthy activities such as exercise, diet programs, and alternative therapies such as swimming, saunas, or YMCA promotions. While there is slimline which can be crossed, impressing upon others you think there’s something wrong with them, broad suggestions can still remain as very effective. As with all notions, every organization should certainly know and respect the interests of the communities in which they serve. If, for instance, you live in a BBQ focused area, keen on football, also near a major tobacco producing facility—chances are your community, as a whole, will be less inclined to participate in health-promoting activities. If, however, you live in an up-and-coming district of a city that is peppered with vegan, organic, and all-natural restaurants—your plan to roll out a community health program may be super effective!

We’ll get into the details of how to better manage your groups approaches this kind of events later, but for now, just get inspired by a list of great ideas for community events:

  1. Infrared Sweat Lodges are becoming a new trend among people, which involve using near-infrared heat lamps to create sauna-type areas in which people can ‘sweat out’ whatever sounds like a catchy reference to toxins for your event to use. Sweat out bad politics, sweat out the stress, sweat out the heat; etc—its a variable play on words that could be reused across many events. These types of non-traditional sweat lodges are becoming wildly popular lately, and offer and offer a great number of health benefits.
  2. Walking and running events, such as marathons, half-marathons, 5k runs, 2k runs, and etc. are all great ways to get people moving. These events are over-played, and therefore not very awe-inspiring or interesting to many anymore, but they are still effective at getting people to move around a little. Just walking 10-15 minutes a day can benefit one’s health tremendously!
  3. Rock Climbing Events such as local indoor gyms hosting events, or having a climbing wall brought on location can offer a great unique opportunity for exercise for people. These types of events often promote much more interest than 5K run-type events, simply because they are much rarer.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

If you’re doing some poking and prodding (community research) regarding what types of lifestyle programs your community may be excited about, remember to focus on the broad details first. For example, before you decide whether you should serve vegan hot dogs or tofu burgers at your 24 hours Walk Around the Park for Animal Rights Awareness event, you should have a fair idea of the percentage of Vegans living in your community. An example, while doing house calls or neighborhood polling, poke into the question “Are you, or anyone you know, a Vegan or Vegetarian?” If 1% of your community responds yes to this type of question, you’ll know that serving tofu burgers and hot dogs won’t likely add any extra turnout to your event. If, however, you get a 30% response from neighborhood citizens that they are Vegan or Vegetarian, then the extra investment in Vegan and Vegetarian options for event food may help drive your event from ‘mediocre’ to ‘grand-success.’

If you don’t have good data from your community to help guide decisions, the default perspective a successful organization takes is one that would help benefit the event as a whole. If, for instance, you have no clue what type of food your community wants, but know they LOVE inflatable bouncing cages, then don’t waste your money on some expensive niche food offering when those bucks could be bringing them the bouncy pen their hearts are craving!

Detoxing Bad Expectations

Oddly enough, we’ve found that many groups are often plagued by a self-perpetuating notion that nothing they can do will matter within their community. This mindset is easy to slip into briefly but more dynamic for those groups that suffer from it on a systemic level. When you approach your community with an event, many are looking to you to help them decide how interested they should be. If your ground teams are just walking up to houses and muttering some nonsense about the event—just to get it done with—then that energy is going to be associated with your event by those members of your community. It’s, for this reason, it is super important to make sure the people that are talking and promoting your events are those with positive attitudes, infectious energies, and overall good nature.

Many people regard volunteer and non-profit organizations, which are often charities, as being overly charitable for all facets of life. This exposes these groups to many people that want to say they are ‘volunteering’ but don’t actually care anything about it. You shouldn’t feel any expectations towards retaining the company of persons such as these—give them the boot, be clear about it, and don’t think twice. Every person that brings in a sense of negativity, anger, contempt or other negative emotion brings with them the potential to undercut your group’s effectiveness towards reaching its end goals and mission.

Spreading Awareness Effectively

Organic Milk Dairy Cows

Many causes are taken up by local interest groups, and many of them are very well thought out. However, even those causes with the most earnest of intent often fall ineffective due to a myriad of circumstance. I’d like to go over some of the more influential decision making processes that can help to energize your cause, or also render them ineffective before they even get off the ground. While there are a great many nuances of rally support on a local level, I’ll be discussing two of the most impactful in my experience; the relevance of a cause, as well as the offered solution.

Relevancy is most understood by regarding it as the degree to which your cause has the potential to affect your target group. For instance; you wouldn’t want to spread awareness of vegan-ism to a local hunting community—it’d fall on deaf ears. The second facet; the offered solution, is one of the highest impacts in my experience. If you are spotlighting a cause worthy of concern, you best ensure your own reception by having an answer for the question “well what do we do about it?”

Being Relevant

One might delve into the philosophical implications of this on a personal level—but for our discussion, we’ll be regarding it in a more stricter sense of its immediate impact and practical application. For instance, while the most powerful activists out there are perceived as relevant in their entirety, which provides whatever they say relevance, for the average joes such as you and I—we need to make sure what we are saying is relevant, and maybe will help others perceive us as relevant after some time. This disconnect is the reason that celebrities get endorsement deals and not your next door neighbor. At the end of the day, it’s all about public perception—and if you are an unknown quantity, you better make sure you are bringing some well-known and demanded content.

Enough with the study, let’s examine a recent case; particularly making available “pet” milk within a community of local agriculturists and livestock owners. If you don’t know why pet is in quotations, it’s all right, but I can’t really say why—just assume that the community was very receptive to the idea of being able to purchase milk directly from farmers. Anyway, there was a bit of a divide among the community regarding the sale of “pet” milk, which we realized was largely from a lack of knowledge. To counter this swell of sentiment, we helped organize an educational event at the local YMCA to help present facts and concerns from both sides of the case. We advertised the event in local papers, social media, and at the local farmers market. Being as this situation was an already existing one, we had to do little else to garner interest in our event. Many people were eager to attend, as well as express their opinions.

Offering A Solution

As the event progressed, we heard from local farmers and retailers regarding the conditions in which this “pet” milk was produced, stored, and delivered to consumers. We then heard from 3 local medical professionals regarding the potential dangers of this product, as well as an in-depth explanation of how the disaster could be avoided. The end result seemed to create a de-sensationalism of the entire topic and left many people simply weighing the pros and cons of the personal benefits of such a product. It should be noted that we also aligned ourselves with a plethora of relevant health information from sources such as BBC HealthOrganic NewsroomDr. Mercola, as well as WebMD to help discuss the dynamics in which this product could fit into our audiences lifestyle.

The conclusion was that while still remaining labeled as “pet” milk for federal reasons, there would be a local governmental agency established to ensure and regulate quality standards of this product and that the “Grade A” version of the product would be regarded as being as free of potential containment as possible. This would allow those within the community that wished to purchase the product a reasonable avenue for doing so, as well as enabling the local producers and merchants interested in selling the product some peace of mind knowing they were avoiding as much risk as possible. Simply put, we just helped to free up the local chain of supply and demand to flow freely without hitch. We helped bring about focus to a topic that everyone was already interested in, and helped to offer a solution that addressed both sides of the topics’ concerns.

Community Garden Organization

Community Gardening

One of the largest facets of our organization is the cultivation of locally aware consumerism. We strive to help local communities understand some basic principles that will allow them to not only develop products and services that will help benefit their respective communities but also provide an incentive to consumers to spend money locally.

One of the many ways we do this is to help local citizens understand not only the means but also the value, of organizing a community garden. Such endeavors by local citizenry not only works to bond together communities with their leaders but also to help spread the awareness and reliance of a community among itself rather than outside sources. This type of inward dependence can help to strengthen ties among communities and better fortify them against exterior economic circumstances. While there are certainly many means to conduct such a strengthening of community, the construction and active upkeep of a community garden are one of the best places to start; many people understand the concept and are excited to begin learning how they can get involved. We are going to outline a simple, yet basic, approach for helping your community get set up with a shared garden that can help boost ties and community resilience.

Communication

Don’t be the group that everyone has to wonder who they are—make sure you are actively talking with other members of your community regarding your groups’ projects and goals. There is no resistance stronger to community outreach than a non-receptive community. We’ve found that the most influential factor of this equation that works against most groups is that people are simply leery of the unfamiliar. Your group may be doing something truly great and magnanimous but if no one is aware of what’s going on you will receive little support and, more often than not, rude remarks from people that notice your group in action yet are unaware of what is going on.

The best way to counter these types of issues is to simply talk to members of the community that is closest to the location of your project. For instance, if your group is planning on building a community garden near a city park, you may want to spend one Saturday afternoon at that park meeting some of the residents and asking them how they would like to see the project evolve. Through our years of outreach, we noticed that while many people are silent regarding community projects, most are very willing to share their input if asked. There is an almost predictable majority of those that respond to such questions that will also offer to lend their services in the cultivation of projects.

Respond to Feedback

Don’t just ask questions of the community without regard for their responses; it is important to address the content of these responses as valuable contributions to the direction of your organization’s goals. Many groups can often get caught up in the details of their projects to a degree that they forget the end goal is always to serve the community. While it may be hard to do if for instance, the majority of the community members say they wouldn’t want a community garden, be prepared to drastically alter your project goals and logistics. If a community doesn’t want a community garden, then don’t press them for a community garden—it’d end up being solely your group’s garden anyway…

Stay Strong

Sometimes, the response of communities can be underwhelming to say the least and doesn’t provide much motivation to those seeking to impact it. While a positive response from members of your project’s community is great, we’ve found it functionally-beneficial to approach each new project with the understanding that we may be the only ones that ever get involved with it. Not only does this help one’s group focus on their own motivations for doing positive actions for a community, but it also helps shape the planning stages which can help increase the longevity of projects. For instance, if you assume no one will be watering your new community garden on a regular basis, you may account for solar-powered water pump systems to help automate the gardens ability to survive a bit of negligence from the community. This is just a simple example but illustrates the principle of hedging your groups’ goals to help achieve the greatest overall impact across the board.

The Power of Organic Foods

Organic Produce Foods

In our previous post, Community Garden Organization, we discussed the powerful impact that a community garden can have for unifying local commerce and interests. We also discussed some of the finer points associated with the logistics of such an endeavor. However, one point that we didn’t elaborate on too deeply was that of the importance of organic practices while cultivating foods that are intended for consumption. Organic gardening is a powerful means of ensuring the food you are growing is exposed to as few toxic chemicals as possible while being grown.

What Does ‘Organic’ Mean

Organic agriculture is a classification for produce, meats, and other consumables that have been produced in a manner that meets USDA Organic guidelines, which outline accepted best-practices for having as clean a product as possible. Organic foods are cultivated in synthetic chemical free areas, are free to be subjected to chemical pesticides like RoundUp, and are certified to contain no GMO ingredients. While many of these commonly used agents and chemicals are commonplace among other consumer products, they are not allowed to be included in Organic foods that have been certified by the USDA

While the science to prove the direct relationship between these chemicals and adverse health conditions is difficult to muster; there has been a growing concern as of late that our dependence of commercially produced agents such as Glyphosate may have put us all at risk. For example, fields many miles away from fields having roundup sprayed on them test positive for the chemical, and it shows up in trace amounts in almost all non-organic produce and foods. There is a great chance that if you had your blood tested for Glyphosate, you would test positive.

The Benefit of Eating Organic

One of the most reverberating phrases within the medical profession is Primum non-Nocere, which means “first, do no harm.” While greatly removed from modern Western medicine in practice, it was originally a credo; a philosophy, that meant while addressing medical conditions it would be a practitioner’s prime objective to avoid causing further harm. An abstract of this saying, more relevant to food, would be “first, prove safety.” GMO foods are largely described as safe by their makers while being largely contested against by consumers. Money has gotten involved, as well as media, and it seems now there is overwhelming research and data to prove either side of the case, depending on whom you trust.

When an argument’s logic becomes so convoluted that belief and sentiment are the deciding factors, you can almost be certain someone is full of it. Typically, the financial interest is the party found to be most at-fault in these types of cases. With this in mind, consider that forever drug that the FDA has ever recalled due to adverse effects, it has first approved based upon data provided in test studies. The fact is, commerce would cease to exist if every food product had to be proven to be safe for a decade, or two, or three’s usage before hitting the shelves. That is an easy argument to make and wins in nearly every sense of objection.

To eat Organic Foods, you are simply choosing to remove as much uncertainty from the equation as possible—a very practical decision in modern times. Rather than waiting 30 years to understand the deadly effects of chemicals such as Agent Orange, DDT, or Asbestos, just choose to eat foods in their natural forms as found in nature. Commercial agriculture would surely be crippled, but maybe the foods we put in our bodies should never have been de-localized in the first place. It’s important to remember, that not just foods fall into this category but organic supplementscosmetics, and even organic clothing are all capable of helping you avoid having dangerous levels of toxic chemicals in your body.

Organic Gardens

The point of all this discussion is to help hammer home the importance of incorporating Organic Gardening into your organization’s outreach programs. Help teach communities that they need to think, learn, and act for themselves based upon critical thinking rather than simply floating by the concepts they’ve seen on television or other horrible health websites such as Livestrong and other convoluted giants concerned more with money than quality. At the end of the day, people that stand to make a profit from a product tend to make it sound safe, wonderful, and capable of boosting your life quality in some regard. When there is an issue with that product, however, they are usually the last to admit it. Find the power in self-reliance and apply it to your group’s practices and programs. Good luck out there, and remember to Do Good!