One Woman’s Quest to Help People Make Healthy Choices

High-density public housing high-rises are a thing of the past in St. Louis after the last high-rise was demolished in 2014 in favor of more sustainable and inclusive mixed-income developments. Along with the shift in building philosophies, Urban Strategies has led the charge to also invest in the health and sustainability of communities.

For Catherine Harris, who lives at Renaissance Place at Grand Apartments, which took the place of that last high-rise, she not only valued the importance of promoting health, she got on board to ensure the program’s success.

Catherine headed up the Urban Strategies’ With Every Heartbeat is Life (WEHL) Program—an 8-week course that teaches ways to incorporate healthy choices into one’s life. After going door-to-door to encourage participation, Catherine was proud to have a well-attended program and saw residents making healthy changes in their lives.

Thanks to the success of that initial program, Catherine suggested re-targeting the class to focus on both parents and their kids. She thought if healthy habits could be learned at an early age, and encouraged by more people at home, families would have greater success.

Thanks to Catherine’s entrepreneurial spirit, she started a very popular Family Cook Night to teach healthy eating and cooking habits and began a summer program for youth that centered on fitness, healthy cooking, and making healthy choices.

“I’ve enjoyed every aspect of this job because it allowed me to work on myself and keep myself accountable. If I am teaching health, I need to be healthy myself. Even I was exercising more, engaging my children—we were all working toward being a healthy family together.”
Catherine also saw the positive results of encouraging healthy lifestyles, including the growth of a more united community.

“The program has allowed me to be more interactive with my neighbors. I got to know my neighbors next door and across the street,” said Catherine. “I see more family togetherness and involvement. We have all become a family; we look out for one another and there is more trust. A community built on trust makes us all safer.”

Because of her work on these programs, Catherine was inspired to go back to school to pursue a degree in Human Services. She wants to be able to meet the needs of the community in every aspect, but especially by focusing on young people.

“The children are not only our future, they are our hope for today,” said Catherine. “We need to prepare them to be healthy—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”


Senior health services set the building blocks for community change

Just as the building design literally insulates its elderly residents around a community of family units, services at the Poindexter Place in Columbus, Ohio equally embrace its most vulnerable residents. Serving a population of individuals who hope to age in place, Urban Strategies in Columbus has put together a menu of services that help address the health needs of its residents.

Through its many partnerships with healthcare providers and Ohio State University Hospital, Poindexter Place residents are currently able to participate in community health events, learn how to better manage their chronic health conditions, and participate in a culture of wellness for all.

These programs are in place in anticipation of further use when the community reaches full capacity upon completion of its family units in 2017.

A healthy offering of support:

  • Urban Strategies assessments
  • On-site healthcare services
  • Intergenerational recreational activities
  • Weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, vision, hearing, dental, and BMI screenings
  • Transportation to community events, such as 5K run/walks, health fairs, and group wellness walks
  • Weekly healthful meal deliveries
  • Community health worker trainer program