New leader, same vital mission

Published 7:48 pm Friday, January 11, 2013

Since coming to Suffolk, it has been heartening to discover a number of programs already in place that I wholeheartedly support.

Things like the Suffolk Humane Society’s B.A.R.K.S. program and the Suffolk Clean Community Commission’s Recycling and Tire Amnesty days present a picture of a community with strong ties and a common mission. But there is one group that has consistently caught my attention with many different programs that work together to improve Suffolk.

The Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community has appeared in print many times over the past year. From 5K runs to community gardens to the organization’s recently launched Healthy People, Healthy Suffolk Initiative, the partnership has logged a lot of miles in its mission to improve the health of Suffolk. And while many, many people and organizations have been instrumental in the creation of these and more programs, the Partnership owes much to the coalition-building skills of former executive director, Jaya Tiwari.

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According to partnership president Caroline Martin, Tiwari’s advocacy resulted in the growth of the Suffolk on the Move and community garden initiatives, the establishment of the Healthy Youth Ambassador Program and Positive Lifestyle Commitment Program, and the launch of the 10-year Healthy People/Healthy Suffolk plan. Her leadership has created long-lasting relationships among Suffolk’s community members and wildly popular programs that have already improved the health of Suffolk.

Last year, the annual County Health Rankings, created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that Suffolk’s ranking improved by a point overall. Small change to some, but every little bit counts in the fight to improve our health. And the report also found a significant jump in the habits that improve a person’s health over time, a factor attributed to the work of the partnership.

As Tiwari leaves Suffolk, all is not lost. Her efforts will last far beyond her tenure. And her mantle has already been taken up by a new executive director, one who has all the energy and experience necessary to keep the momentum Tiwari created.

A self-professed health nut, Robbie Laughton is uniquely qualified to act as a walking advertisement for the program. And coming from a background mixing athletic programs with community initiatives, the new executive director is perfectly suited for the demands placed on the Partnership’s leadership.

Laughton is still getting acclimated to some of the programs launched last year. But if his goals — including financial stability for the partnership and more walking, biking and water trails in the city — can be reached, the future looks bright for the Partnership and, more importantly, for Suffolk.