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Lake County Wins the 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize

Tags: Regional Partnerships

Lake County Wins the 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize

By Dave Palenchar


I am delighted to share that Lake County is one of five winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Cultureof Health Prize. Lake County is the first Colorado community to be awarded the prestigious recognition and wasamong nearly 200 applicant communities. To win the award, the county demonstrated its solutions to low health and education outcomes through collaborative programs backed by robust community support.

El Pomar Foundation’s High Country Regional Council has had the opportunity to observe first-hand the tremendous efforts made in Lake County to improve health outcomes for its residents, and has been honored to be a supporter of those efforts. Less than ten years ago, Lake County struggled to address community health and was ranked 58th of 59 counties for population health outcomes by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2013, the High Country Council chose to invest in Lake County after metrics indicated that youth outcomes in standardized test scores, graduation rates and health benchmarks were significantly lower than those in the surrounding counties. To address these gaps, the Council partnered with Lake County Human Services to improve youth outcomes in five distinct focus areas: education, programs and activities, health prevention, community development, and family economics.

After the Council made an initial grant to the Lake County Youth Master Plan, Lake County Build a Generation (LCBAG) emerged as the leading organization addressing youth development. The Council was thrilled to support LCBAG’s collaborative programs that increased positive health outcomes by focusing on economic, social and environmental factors impacting community members. LCBAG has gathered organizations to collaboratively improve the livelihoods of families, and steadily performs in line with its mission to build a healthier community. The organization, led by Katie Baldassar, has expanded workgroups and action teams to create pre-collegiate programs, provide health training for parents and increase physical activity among children. These working groups include the Pre-collegiate Action Team, the Out of School Time Programming Action Team, the Lake County Middle School Playground Steering Committee and the Community Foundation Workgroup. These various groups have positively impacted the community in some key metrics. For example, in 2014, only 6.9 percent of 4th graders were meeting or exceeding expectations in English Language Arts, but that percentage increased to 21.1 percent by 2017.1 LCBAG’s persistent efforts have also contributed to lower teen birth rates and higher levels of physical activity among youth.2

While the community has enjoyed improvements, some educational and health benchmarks remain low, and Lake County continues to work toward stronger youth outcomes. Fortunately, the momentum provided by robust programming and deep community support has put the county on an upwards trajectory of progress. As Trustee on the High Country Council, I am honored to be part of the Council’s decision to support the tremendous progress of Lake County and LCBAG. The Council has invested more than $440,000 toward LCBAG’s efforts in Lake County and we look forward to watching the community’s continued development and the positive effects of their ongoing efforts. As the Council pursues other funding opportunities in the coming years, we are proud of LCBAG’s growth and success. We look forward to remaining community advocates of LCBAG’s initiatives and future endeavors.


Read more about this award here


1 “US Demographic Data by Topic: KIDS COUNT Data Center.” KIDS COUNT Data Center: A Project of the Annie E. Casey




Dave Palenchar serves as the High Country Regional Trustee for El Pomar Foundation as well as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Broadmoor World Arena andPikes Peak Center for Performing Arts. Read more about Dave here