With the 5,000th Point of Light recently being awarded, it’s worth noting that the Healthy Valley program in this region was honored as the 1,531th Point of Light in December 1999.
The Points of Light program was inspired by former President George H.W. Bush and started in 1990. The nonprofit program brings recognition to volunteer individuals and organizations that help bring positive change to a community.
Recently, to mark the 5,000th milestone, President Barack Obama invited the elder Bush and the 5,000th Point of Light recipient to the White House.
Project began in 1990s
Healthy Valley, launched in 1994, was Connecticut’s first healthy community project and received recognition and awards as a model for other communities across the country. More than 175 volunteer entities were involved with this project and the subsequent Healthy Valley 2000.
The mission was to improve the health and quality of life of residents by making the Valley a better place in which to live, work, shop and enjoy life.
The five priority areas identified by Healthy Valley were arts and recreation, community health, community involvement, economic development, and education.
Cooperation and pride
Healthy Valley worked to maintain Valley unity through regional cooperation; enhance community image and pride; better utilize the Valley’s unique resources, especially its two major rivers (Housatonic and Naugatuck); and embrace cultural diversity.
In addition to Shelton, Healthy Valley covered the communities of Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, Beacon Falls and Oxford, with a combined population of 96,000 people.
One finding of Healthy Valley was that colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer deaths were significantly higher in the Valley than the state average, primarily as a result of low rates of screening and primary care access.
The initial research evolved into a Community Health Profile that now is produced bi-annually by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.
There are ongoing efforts to complete health assessments and increase mammography screening rates in the six Valley towns, three of which have been designated by the federal government as medically underserved. These health-related actions have been cited as a model for the nation by the U.S. Public Health Service.
Last year, the Komen Foundation identified Shelton as the only Valley town with breast cancer mortality rates among the highest in the state.
Some other specific activities that were initiated by Healthy Valley include the Electronic Valley website, Valley Pride week, a youth leadership program, a safe communities program for youth, and a resource guide to youth activities and programs.
Learn more about Healthy Valley at www.valleycouncil.org/healthy.