Healthy Communities initiative

What is the healthy communities initiative?

Healthy Communities Initiative

Tom Wolff's healthy cities and communities services promote the idea of creating, community-based participatory processes to improving community life. A healthy communities approach employs community development strategies and involves a wide range of local institutions, community groups and private citizens, as well as health professionals, in efforts to improve the conditions that encourage and support healthy living. The process re-engages citizens in helping realize their visions for a healthier community and makes a positive change in its overall quality of life. The outcome is a physical and civic environment that promotes healthy individuals in healthy communities.

The Healthy Communities concept emerged from the World Health Organization' Ottawa Charter, which describes the "prerequisites for health" as encompassing a very broad, set of variables: peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable ecosystem, sustainable resources, social justice and equity. Basic to the healthy communities approach is the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health, with health defined as a resource for everyday life.

Healthy Communities is a radically different way of approaching health from the traditional individualistic, remedial medical services system that dominates America. The common focus of these efforts is on the core concepts that defined the healthy communities process:

  • Create a compelling vision from shared values
  • Embrace a broad definition of health and well-being
  • Address quality of life for everyone
  • Engage diverse citizen participation/ citizen driven
  • Multi-sectoral membership and widespread community ownership
  • Acknowledge the social determinants of health, and the interrelationship of health with other issues – housing, education, peace, equity, social justice.
  • Address issues through collaborative problem solving
  • Focus on systems change
  • Build capacity using local assets and resources
  • Measure and benchmark progress and outcomes

Tom Wolff & Associates can provide services for you and your Healthy Community Initiative. Designing and implementing healthy communities can be an uphill journey; Tom Wolff Associates can assist your healthy communities effort to be successful by delivering concrete outcomes for your communities.

As more and more communities face the emerging problems in their community whether it is asthma or childhood obesity, they come to understand that these problems are best addressed through a Healthy Communities approach that engages the whole community. Tom Wolff & Associates can help your community launch and sustain healthy communities that really make a real difference through customized services:

Starting a New Healthy Communities Initiative

Excited by the healthy community concept? We can help you plan and initiate a healthy communities process in your community(ies). Our experience in helping to launch numerous Healthy Community Initiatives in urban and rural settings will allow us to help your effort get a running start.

Healthy Communities Consulting Services

Consultations are ongoing relationship focused on addressing your specific needs, overcoming barriers and achieving designated goals As systems architects, we help you design a coalition or system of coalitions in ways that minimize problems and support sustainability. Our services include: Services for Coalition Startup, Services for Ongoing Coalitions, and Services for Coalition Sustainability.

Annual Retreats for Healthy Community Collaboratives

All coalitions need regular occasions for reflection and renewal. We provide professionally run retreats for specific coalitions or help your system design such retreats for all your coalitions. Retreats allow time for review of the coalitions' past accomplishments and struggles, and for envisioning the future. Retreat deliverables include concrete, doable action plans and steps for follow-up.


Outside intervention can be a useful tool when even the best designed coalition systems run into trouble. A combination of consulting to your system, tailored coalition retreats and coaching can make the difference between saving and losing a coalition and all your investment in that community.

Personalized Coaching for Healthy Community Leaders

Personalized coaching is available in person and by phone to systems mangers and coalition leaders at specific sites. Managers and coalition leaders need someone they trust to view ‘sticky’ situations in a new way and to find new interventions. Our personal consultation provides you with an experienced professional who can help your communities find the solutions they need in order to succeed.

Customized Healthy Communities Trainings and Keynotes

Tom Wolff specializes in designing one and two day trainings that address the needs of specific audiences. Tom clearly and effectively communicates with his audience. Attendees come to think more deeply about the issues while benefiting from numerous examples and practical tools. He provides extensive written materials and audiovisuals to accompany presentations and frequently uses exercises and simulations to engage participants in experiential learning. These trainings can be part of your overall Technical Assistance Plan or highlights of our program┼fs special events (i.e. annual meeting).

Developing Customized Healthy Communities Resource Materials for Your Organization

As programs are developed you may need customized training manuals, curricula or other tailored written materials for your program. Tom Wolff is experienced in developing curricula and other written materials for specific organizations, which have been distributed and found useful in many communities across the country.

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Tom Wolff and Healthy Communities

Tom Wolff is one of the earliest innovators in the healthy communities field in the U.S. Starting in 1984 Tom helped launch healthy community coalitions that continue to thrive to this day. In 1994 Tom helped create Healthy Communities Massachusetts (HCM), a statewide network of coalitions and local organizations designed to stimulate community-based collaboration and innovation through resource exchange and training. Healthy Communities Massachusetts provided technical assistance, training and support to healthy community efforts across the state and across New England through variety of one-day trainings, and major New England-wide conferences. These training offerings culminated in the creation of the Healthy Communities Institute, an intensive five day training for teams from communities. Twenty-one community teams were trained over five years. HCM also addressed policy and advocacy issues through its broadly representative steering committee. Tom's healthy communities work has also had an impact in Canada where he has provided leadership of the Manitoba Summer Population Health Institute and where his popular book, From the Ground Up , translated into French for the Quebec healthy communities effort - Villes and Villages En Sante.

Tom has created a wide range of dissemination materials on the topic of healthy communities. The materials listed below can be obtained on our tools and resources page.

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