Tahlequah Public Schools is the proud sponsor of the Tahlequah B.E.S.T. Community Coalition. The coalition is completely supported by federal funds designated for building relationships to support health in communities. During the last community meeting in January, coalition members developed an elevator speech to define the organization. As most of you know, an elevator speech is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what your organization does. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name. This is what members of the coalition came up with for the organization. “Tahlequah B.E.S.T. is sponsored by Tahlequah Public Schools and has been in existence for over 10 years. B.E.S.T. stands for Bringing Everyone’s Strengths Together. The focus of BEST is to bring together a wide variety of community partners and individuals to work toward the common goal of improving the physical and mental health of the youth and adults of Tahlequah.” Hopefully, that little pitch sparked an interest? If so, following is a little more information.
Some of the individuals and agencies involved in the coalition include representation from Northeastern State University, City of Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah Public Schools, Cherokee County Healthy Living Program, Cherokee County Health Department, Cherokee County Health Services Council, Tahlequah Chamber and Main Street, Tahlequah Farmer’s Market, Smart Start Cherokee County, Oklahoma State University Extension, Northeastern Health Systems, Cherokee County Health Coalition, officials from the city, county, NSU, Scenic Rivers and Tribal law enforcement departments, also the district attorney’s and district judicial offices as well as several behavioral health providers. We are also fortunate to receive visits during our community meetings from our State Senators and Representatives as well as occasional surprise visits from our elected officials in Washington, D.C.
Current funding and initiatives of Tahlequah B.E.S.T. include the Drug Free Communities Support Program (underage drinking, tobacco and prescription drug prevention), the Partnerships to Improve Community Health (a partnership with Cherokee Nation Healthy Nation to promote tobacco prevention and promote good nutrition), the Safe Routes To School (a partnership with the City of Tahlequah and Cherokee Nation to support walkable communities), the Partnerships For Success (a partnership with Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health to prevent prescription drug abuse) and the partnership with the Cherokee County Healthy Living Program (funded by our tobacco settlement dollars to focus on tobacco control, and promote physical activity and nutrition).
Recently the coalition, in collaboration with the Cherokee County Health Department/Turning Point participated in the MAPP process. MAPP stands for Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. This is a community approach to health improvement involving a variety of community organizations, agencies, groups and individuals. MAPP is a community approach to health improvement that prioritizes public health issues and identifies local resources for addressing them. Within this process a Community Health Improvement Plan or CHIP is created. The three health priority issues that emerged during the process for our area were as follows: Priority area 1 - to promote access to healthy food, Priority area 2 - to promote physical activity and Priority area 3 - to prevent risky behaviors such as drug and tobacco use.
As described above, Tahlequah B.E.S.T.’s funding and initiatives are spot on for being in a position to address the three priority areas. Tahlequah Public Schools sponsors and participates in the coalition because we want to support a healthy environment for our students to learn and live. If you would like to become a member or learn more about how the coalition contributes to community health, contact Tahlequah Public Schools at 918-458-4191.