Originally published March 12, 2012
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Partner Up! for Public Health campaign today unveiled a new initiative recognizing Georgia organizations and individuals who make important contributions to the health of their communities. The programs first three honorees are: the Good News Clinics in Gainesville, former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, and the Decatur Farm to School Initiative.
Named as the first "Partner Up! for Public Health Heroes" for 2012, the three honorees were selected for effectively addressing different public health challenges in their communities. The Heroes Program is being co-sponsored by DPH and the Partner Up! for Public Health campaign, which is funded by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation and is aimed at building public awareness of the challenges facing the state's public health system.
DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., "The energy and the effectiveness exhibited by these first three Partner Up! for Public Health Heroes is exciting and inspiring to those of us who work in public health. The Department is pleased to join the Partner Up! campaign in recognizing these honorees and hope that their efforts will inspire leaders in other communities to follow their examples. Local leadership and engagement is vital to protecting, promoting and advancing public health at a community level."
"Much of Partner Up! for Public Health's early campaign focus has been to build public and leadership understanding about the funding and operational challenges facing Georgia's public health system," said campaign manager Charles Hayslett. "We'll continue to do that. But in the course of building the campaign, it's become clear that there are important local public initiatives taking place in communities throughout Georgia, and we decided that we wanted to recognize and applaud the best of those efforts. That's what the Heroes program is all about."
The first three Partner Up! for Public Health Heroes are:
- The Good News Clinics (GNC) in Gainesville, which is a free medical and dental clinic. GNC is staffed by volunteer physicians and dentists as well as a variety of other health professionals. GNC also operates a free pharmacy. In 2011, the medical clinic provided over 10,000 patient visits to poor and uninsured residents of Hall County. The dental clinic provided more than 6,700 patient visits and the pharmacy filled over 57,000 prescriptions.
- Former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, who led a successful campaign to enact the most comprehensive tobacco control ordinance in all of Georgia, banning smoking in all public places including bars. Mayor Johnson served from 2004 through 2011. After suffering a major heart attack in 2006, Mayor Johnson organized the Healthy Savannah initiative to promote healthy behavior and preventive care in his coastal Georgia city.
- The Decatur Farm to School Initiative (DF2S) is a community collaborative focused on simultaneously addressing childhood obesity, promoting family farming, and mitigating the environmental impact of food consumption patterns. DF2S strives to connect parents, teachers, school administrators, local farms and chefs in Decatur to improve the lives of children, families and the community. This multi-faceted program has successfully encouraged individual student health by adding more fresh produce to cafeteria menus while decreasing unhealthy offerings. It has also trained teachers to utilize school gardens as "outdoor classrooms."