Seventeen thousand people live within the 1.5 square-mile Westwood neighborhood in Denver. Compared to Denver overall, Westwood residents earn just over half the median household income. Almost half the residents lack a high school degree and they have larger and more crowded households. 81% of Westwood residents are Hispanic and many are Spanish-only speakers.
In Westwood, there are a high percentage of families with children living below the poverty level. In 2010, 26% of CO children aged 1-14 years whose household income was at or below 250% of the federal poverty level had teeth in fair or poor condition. Westwood is home to 6,500 children, 39% of its residents. That’s more than the 21% in Denver overall.
Asaph Quintana is one of these kids. He attends Mathematics & Science Leadership Academy (MSLA). His teacher, Ammon Lucero, partnered with Westwood Unidos on a “Passion Area”. Their work inspired two student groups to advocate for school wellness at MSLA.
Students taste tested fruit infused water. They wrote letters to the cafeteria staff asking them to serve water at meals. Student approved salads were also added to the menu.
Fifth graders gained wellness leadership and advocacy training through the Photo Voice project. They identified healthy and unhealthy choices and environments in their every day spaces. Disposable cameras captured their findings.
Healthy changes in the school came from staff collaboration, as well as parent and student involvement. This method can be used anywhere to educate policymakers, lawmakers and congress on issues and priorities.
Small policy choices like this create ripples that lead to healthier neighborhoods. The Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation approach goes well beyond behavior change and health literacy. It also focuses on systems and policy change. The activities in Westwood exemplify oral health public will building at its best. Let us know how we can help support your efforts promote healthy environments. Email us at the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation.