Healthy Savannah Survey Results Show Increased Use of Community-Based Solutions

Staff Report

Monday, January 30th, 2023

Savannahians are becoming more aware of and utilizing community-based solutions that promote healthy food and physical activity where they live, work and play. The findings of a 2022 survey conducted by Healthy Savannah were revealed at its CDC Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Stakeholders’ Meeting on January 25, 2023. 

About 35 participants were in attendance, representing Savannah and Chatham County organizations committed to elevating the health and wellness of the community. The event was held at the Vaden Automotive corporate office building at 12020 Abercorn in Savannah. 

“I think it’s so important that we all come together around a common cause, the work that we do,” said Lillian Grant-Baptiste, chair of Healthy Savannah. “It’s important that we hear from one another so that we have a greater understanding of everything that we’re doing individually; it makes possible all that we do collectively.” 

The 2022 survey measured the impact of ongoing efforts funded by the REACH grant in areas of nutrition, physical activity and community/clinical linkages as experienced by Black residents in low-wealth neighborhoods. Feedback was collected from 642 respondents across the county but concentrated in target census tracts. 

The 2022 survey results indicated:

• Physical Activity – More people are aware of the Tide to Town trail system and Active People Healthy Savannah initiative. Access to sidewalks, bike lanes and other recreation facilities has become more important. Nearly half of the respondents would walk or bike to work, school or shopping if there were safe paths or sidewalks.

• NUTRITION AND HEALTHY FOOD ACCESS: Forsyth Farmers’ Market (FFM) continues to be a leading resource in Savannah /Chatham County. A majority of respondents (66%) had heard about or used the market and (53%) currently purchase healthy foods at FFM, up 20% from 2019. A quarter (26%) had purchased food from FFM’s Farm Truck 912 and three quarters (75%) desired to do so. Generally, there was an increase in healthy food purchases and the use of SNAP benefits.

• RESOURCE DIRECTORIES AND COMMUNITY RESOURCES: Resource directories are beginning to see an increase in utilization. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents had used the 211 resource line in 2022, up from 32% in 2021., an online directory of community health resources, with 57% of respondents reporting its use. This was an increase in use, up from 20% of respondents in 2021.

“We still have some work to do to help people connect with life-changing resources,” said Armand Turner, physical activity program manager. “More than 85 percent of respondents said they are unfamiliar with our Tuesday healthy walks, the walking school bus initiative, the convenience store fresh food initiative or breastfeeding advocacy. We have ongoing efforts in all of these areas through REACH grant funding."

Turner says it was concerns related to reduced physical activity at the start of the COVID pandemic that led him, along with Healthy Savannah Executive Director Paula Kreissler, to engage the organization’s social media followers to join them for weekly healthy walks on trails throughout Savannah and Chatham County. The two have continued to lead the Tuesday walks each week, often sharing the backstories of historic trails and showcasing updates on the Tide to Town protected network of walking and bicycling trails. Once completed, Tide to Town will connect 75% of Savannah’s neighborhoods to safe, affordable and cost-effective walking and biking infrastructure.

Kreissler challenged participants to use the survey results and resources such as the REACH-funded Community Health Advocate program to develop specific actions for their agencies. The stakeholders unanimously agreed that they would lend their support through promotion and participation to help increase the REACH grant-funded Community Health Advocate network across the county.

“I think especially in the work that we do it is very imperative that we collaborate,” said Dr. Deidre Grim, PhD, MPA, MPP, MUR.

Grim is the executive director of Forsyth Farmers’ Market (FFM) and Farm Truck 912, its mobile farmers’ market that brings local seasonal fruits and vegetables to Savannah’s low-wealth neighborhoods. Farm Truck 912 is also supported by REACH grant funds. 

“Providing resources that address nutrition insecurity, lack of access to healthy options and lack of access to transportation takes a joint effort. We must make sure we are very intertwined with each other’s work because we’re able to then convey that to the community. The community looks at all of us for resources.”