Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 8:33 PM on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Efforts to develop healthy community keep growing

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

What began in 2008 with South Peninsula Hospital's revision of its five-year-strategic plan and grew into a collaborative effort to construct a healthy plan for the peninsula from Ninilchik south, continues to grow, drawing on more resources, developing more connections and simplifying its name.

For starters, anyone who can read a map can remember the diverse group's new name. Once known as the Southern Kenai Peninsula Communities Project, it is now called, simply, MAPP of the Southern Peninsula. MAPP is an acronym for the lengthier Mobilizing for Action Through Partnership and Planning. The MAPP process was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Association of City and County Health Organizations.

"People were always calling me, saying they didn't know what to call it," said coordinator Sharon Whytal. "MAPP associates us with the national movement for communities to write their own goals based on what they want to happen. Also, (the name) is about creating a map for the future based on the vision people wrote."

During a two-day workshop in March 2010, attendees created a vision of what the area would look like in the next five to 10 years. Drawing from the widespread concerns and expertise represented, it touched on food, energy and water systems; a community center; health services; transportation; economy; a collaborative, educational and artistic community; ecosystems; and healthy, safe families.

"The thing I think is so core to this is that it's about breaking down silos, not creating more. It's about working together more effectively so individuals and organizations can keep their own goals and missions, but we pool resources in a way that we do more with what we have and what each can bring to the table," said Whytal. "That's why we need everyone from not just health, but business, arts and environmental organizations. That's really the way to improve the quality of life."

From vegetable-growing greenhouses at local schools to public lectures on wellness, mental health and current research at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College-University of Alaska Anchorage; from a collaborative effort between the city, parent volunteers and local programs to improve playground safety for youngsters to a grant for local agencies to share space and bring more services to the area, Whytal points to a spreading emphasis on wellness. New to MAPP's steering group, Megan Murphy of the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve is carrying the emphasis of wellness to an upcoming science workshop. Adam Bauer, Homer News webmaster, is creating a site that allows participating groups to manage their business online at www.mappofskp.net.

"In a group where you have a lot of flux with participants, the documents and historical archives can be stored in a single place online so as groups change members, they don't lose data," said Bauer.

Bauer also is helping develop an online community resource center, a cooperative effort between MAPP of the Southern Kenai Peninsula and the Homer News. Service providers, advocates and organizations offering community services are encouraged to create a listing.

"One of the MAPP committees was tasked with having a community resource center, but they realized that a building was just beyond the pale and impossible to imagine, so instead, they decided to do something online," said Bauer.

A meeting planned for September offers another opportunity for interested groups and individuals to provide updates on their activities and consider goals for the future. Being there is important, not only to hear what's going on, but also to determine what comes next, according to Whytal.

"It's always exciting when everybody else in the community gets together and adds their ideas and people connect with other people doing similar things," she said.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.