LEWISTON — The Twin Cities have been identified as one of 10 “communities of promise” in the country by the American Hospital Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

As a result, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and its partners have been invited to participate in a two-year Culture of Health Learning Collaborative that will bring the 10 communities together to foster a better understanding of how to create healthy communities.

According to community health leaders, Lewiston-Auburn was selected because of efforts by a variety of interests to increase the health of residents.

“St. Mary’s Nutrition Center has already been looking outside the box and looking to the community,” said Kirsten Walter, director of the center, who led a tour of the city last week for representatives of the American Hospital Association.

“We launched the Farm to School Network and participate actively in the Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn, which is a multi-sector collaboration,” she said.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which promotes health and health care in the U.S., believes that the “secret sauce” to improved health in communities is a collaborative approach to health care, involving hospitals, community groups and local food providers, Walter said. 

Over the next two years, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center leaders will work with the Health Research and Educational Trust, a branch of the American Hospital Association focused on transforming health care through research and education, sharing resources with the other nine communities. The goal will be to determine how cooperation across sectors, including education, business, transportation and community development, can play a role in building a culture of health in a community.

Lessons learned from the two-year collaboration will be used to create a guide to help hospitals, health leaders and community partners develop and implement effective partnerships.

A conference in Chicago in May will bring together the 10 communities to kick-start the two-year project.

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