To Dr. Kathryn Martin, it is a simple economic tradeoff.
“The healthier we are, the wealthier we are,” said Martin, the associate dean of the Savannah campus for Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University and a member of the board of directors of Healthy Savannah. “The less we spend on health care, the more money we can spend on other things.”
The Savannah group’s accomplishments were held up as an example Friday as researchers from GRU met with community groups to relaunch Healthy Augusta and determine first steps toward tackling community issues.
That first step is often the biggest challenge, Martin said.
“Getting everyone together is always the hardest part,” she said.
Since it formed in 2007, Healthy Savannah has taken on a number of projects and initiatives, including pushing for the smokefree ordinance Savannah passed in 2010. It also included establishing a successful farmer’s market and urban community gardens, said Lizann Roberts, who helped lead Friday’s meeting and is a member of Healthy Savannah’s advisory board.
“We shared our resources,” she said. “We let go of what was ours, what was mine, and gave it to the community.”
While Healthy Augusta has been around for a while, Friday’s meeting is “a major move to help Augusta become a healthier city,” said Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta.
And that matters in a number of ways, not just for the health of the citizens but also the economic health of the community, he said.
“Big corporations look for these things,” Howard said.
While the meeting focused on broader issues, Roberts said community health is “about growing a social movement, rather than a program.”