Extension, Metro Center unite communities to solve health challenges

Extending science to serve communities is what Extension is all about. And when it comes to health, entire communities—from youth to elders, rural and urban—must band together to find solutions.

The new Culture of Health partnership unites thousands of communities in a 10-year effort to tackle the challenges they face when it comes to health.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy organization, and led by the National 4-H Council, with assistance from the Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension at Washington State University, the partnership aims to solve health challenges like chronic disease and rising healthcare costs.

In a five-state, 2-year, $4.6 million pilot project, Extension professionals will launch community health councils to share health innovations, connecting youths in 4-H, local non-profits, businesses, governments, community groups, and other key players.

A group of Metro Center staff
Staff at the Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension at WSU will help train Cooperative Extension personnel across the country to help their communities address health challenges. From left are Brad Gaolach, Martha Aitken, Haley Hughes, Maria Anguiano, and Anthony Gromko (Not pictured: José García-Pabón).

The Metro Center’s 19-month, $246,000 role supports Extension personnel with professional development for those councils. WSU Extension will build expertise in coalition building, productive decision-making, cultural competence, youth-adult partnerships, and other areas.

“This is a new approach for Extension,” said Brad Gaolach, Director of the Metro Center and principal investigator on the grant. “This collaboration lets Extension use our unique resources to help people at a national level, while training Extension agents across the country to better engage with their communities.”

“The skills that Extension professionals will gain through this project will carry through to youth, family and communities across the U.S. and here in Washington,” said Martha Aitken, Senior Associate at the Metro Center and co-leader on the grant.

As host institution for the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research (http://metroextension.wsu.edu), WSU Extension has assembled a team of faculty from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, University of California, Colorado State University, Ohio State University, and at WSU to lead professional development efforts.

The five land-grant universities selected to implement the pilot program are South Dakota State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Minnesota, the University of Tennessee and Utah State University.

• Learn more about the partnership at the National 4-H website.