In 2014, Williamson, West Virginia won the Robert Wood Johnson’s Culture of Health Award, given to “U.S. communities that are making great strides in their journey to better health and well-being.” Today, Williamson’s Dr. Dino Beckett shares about Williamson’s commitment to improved community health in Appalachia.
Who are you, and what’s your role at your organization?
I’m Dr. “Dino” Beckett, a physician of osteopathic medicine and the CEO and co-founder of Williamson Health and Wellness Center, a federally qualified health center in Williamson, West Virginia where I was born and raised.
How does your organization contribute to improving health in the region?
When we opened a federally qualified health center in 2013, I knew patients who faced barriers to good health. Transportation, income and education disparities made it troublesome to access health and dental care services. Limited fresh fruits and vegetables or opportunities for recreation made it difficult to live a healthy lifestyle locally.
Our clinic, Williamson Health and Wellness Center, takes care of health issues but we also look at many other aspects through the Health Innovation Hub and our Healthy in the Hills programs. We’ve looked at access to healthy foods and helped people get back into agriculture. We are also working with schools to promote entrepreneurship at a young age. And, we host walking and running programs and team based competitions.
Can you share one inspiring story about improving community health from the work you’ve done?
We have a strong sense of community here, so when we lose jobs and people have to go to other states or cities for employment that’s part of our culture that’s being taken away, too. There are ways that we can help to keep our sense of community together, and ways for us to draw closer on one other. It’s just like in hard times, when you know your family is always there. This is a big family, a big extended family, and that’s what we are trying to do.
We are doing what we can to help keep that part of Appalachian culture and that sense of community going. It’s not an easy task, but it’s something that we’ve got to reach for. Nobody is going to come in here and do it for us, and we can’t expect that to happen.
This summer we hosted what we called a Learning Journey 2016 designed to generate trust among potential investors, to enhance strategy with diverse partners from inside and outside of our community and to accelerate transformation.
I think as we build what we are already doing and continue to grow with our outreach, that we gain momentum and people like to be a part of something that is successful and growing. We have had success before and just have to keep pushing, keep our nose to the grind, so to speak, and look for all of the possible solutions and uncover new options and just keep trying all the time.
There are things we are going to fail at, but we will always try to fail forward. One of my favorite Wayne Gretsky quotes is, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” We will keep taking shots at trying to figure out what we can do to help Appalachian communities.
Why is community health important to you and how do you think it impacts or influences community development?
We work to improve the health outcomes of patients and to address the social determinants of health. By doing this, my hope is that we are empowering individuals, families and even workplaces to become active in building a culture of health.
Learning from the the Jack Geiger model for community health centers, we launched our health center believing that a healthy community is the engine that drives a healthy economy. That is why we utilize revenue generated from the clinic to reinvest in our downtown and throughout the county. It all happens with the hope that our efforts are creating other opportunities for economic development.
It’s a win-win to focus on health when thinking about community development in our region. You can imagine the benefits of being part of a healthy community where you are surrounded by people who are demonstrating everyday healthy behaviors like eating healthy and getting exercise. These are key ingredients, or the foundation for creative thinking and entrepreneurship. So, we plan to keep taking the steps to be healthy together, while at the same time nourishing new ideas and making a place for people to share solutions.