Journal of Housing & Community Development

Staying Healthy and Fit in Nampa

August 5, 2021
by Libby Miller

The Nampa Housing Authority (NHA) won a 2020 Award of Excellence for Community Revitalization for launching a resident health and wellness program. Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.      

NHA was awarded a grant from St. Luke’s Hospital, as part of the Community Health Improvement Fund (CHIF) which supports community health improvement activities. The fund was established to provide financial or in-kind support to nonprofit organizations that are also working to improve the health of people in the community. Priority is given to nonprofit organizations that support St. Luke’s Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) significant health needs.  

NHA Executive Director Andy Rodriguez applied for the grant to launch a program for residents geared towards prevention, detection, and management of mental illness, as well as to improve the overall physical health of their residents. 

“We look at housing authorities as not just a housing agency, but a foundation for everything else in someone’s life, including health,” he said. “And healthcare is not just what you put into it. It’s eating right, exercising right…all that goes toward having a healthier lifestyle.” 

With the use of the grant, NHA was able to offer group fitness classes, cooking classes geared towards people who are diabetic, and a variety of courses focusing on improving self-esteem. Workout classes ranged in difficulty to accommodate people of all ages and were offered to residents and the greater Nampa community.  

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and caused most of the country to shut down for public health safety, NHA quickly adapted its health and wellness programs to meet the needs of residents. Rodriguez said classes transitioned to virtual using the housing authority’s Facebook page.  

“We were a little skeptical if it would be well received but it did work. It was a form of interaction our residents both wanted and needed,” he said. “Actually, through our Facebook Live events, we actually gained participants.” 

So much so, NHA received additional funding this year from St. Luke’s Hospital’s CHIF. The program continues to fill an important need, as Rodriguez said many residents struggle with obesity and health issues related to being overweight. This has led to higher rates of mental illness among some residents, with Rodriguez saying a few years ago the community had a rash of deaths by suicide.  

In addition to the fitness and cooking classes, the agency provides other classes such as bingo nights and make-up tutorials to foster interactions and boost self-esteem.  

“We provided residents with makeup kits and a woman in our office showed residents how to apply it,” Rodriguez said. “How you look and present yourself it builds your self-esteem.”  

Looking ahead, Rodriguez said the health and wellness programs will continue to provide a vital service to residents offering both in-person and virtual options. Since the success of the transition to virtual during the pandemic, Rodriguez recognized it made sense to pursue a hybrid option as people start to adapt to a new normal.  

“[the health and wellness program] created a community. Residents began to trust each other and feel confident,” Rodriguez said. “It created an accountability.”  

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