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Study Reveals Kansas Neighborhood is a Model for Community-Led Solutions

WICHITA, Kan. - Sept. 29, 2017 - PrZen -- The historic Fairmount neighborhood, adjacent to Wichita State University had often felt forgotten. In the midst of other economic development initiatives, the diverse, lower-income neighborhood suffered from neglect. Blight, low employment opportunities, and safety concerns prompted university officials to reach out to the community to collaborate with the residents to help improve the health, safety and economic well-being of the neighborhood. The result is a model of collaboration and community engagement they hope can be duplicated in communities across Kansas and the nation.

"As a university, we have a responsibility to reach out and make an impact in the community," said Wichita State University President, Dr. John Bardo. "One goal, when we started, was to help match resources to concerns. Needs are always greater than resources. We asked, how do you create capacity for the university and help match the needs of segments of the community?"

University officials decided to bring their resources to the community to support resident-led initiatives.

"What we can do best is bring our faculty, our students, and resources to help meet the needs of others," Bardo said. "This idea of we know what you need is wrong — we knew we needed to listen."

In 2015, Wichita State's Office of Community Engagement and Opportunity received funding in a $250,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, which provided dedicated resources for staff, community engagement expertise, and a support network for WSU to work more comprehensively with the Fairmount community. To accomplish this, the Public Policy and Management Center at Wichita State devised an in-depth survey to help gauge how Fairmount residents perceived the neighborhood.

"Fairmount is a diverse community. A diverse community that embraces its diversity could become a model to show us the way to bridge divides," said Dr. Mark Glaser, a professor at Wichita State and the leading researcher in the study.

Participation in the three-part, in-depth survey was high, with more than 400 neighborhood residents — 50 percent — responding. The results of part one of the survey were released on Sept. 28 and revealed that while residents have some concerns, they are content with their diverse neighbors and the neighborhood overall.

• 90% said people of different races get along in Fairmount.
• 90% say most people in Fairmount are willing to work with other races.
• Nearly 93% of residents are willing to work with the police.
• 52% of residents are concerned about property maintenance.
• 36% are concerned about illegal drugs.
• 90% would like additional lighting in the neighborhood.
• Overall, 86.3% of residents think Fairmount is a good place to live.

Full results of part one of the Fairmount study are available online. Results of parts two and three of the study will be announced later in the fall. These parts of the study include a household needs assessment and a look at the connection between the neighborhood and the university. Results from the survey will help Wichita State University to better assist residents to make changes and solve community issues.

"As we looked through the results of the study, we see this is community engagement at its finest," said Chan Brown from the Kansas Health Foundation. "Community engagement, especially as it has been implemented in the Fairmount neighborhood with the support of Wichita State University, is a model for other communities," Brown said.

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The purpose of the Community Engagement Initiative (CEI), funded by the Kansas Health Foundation, is to support residents of communities with elevated concentrations of health risks in their effort to create and implement policy, systems and environmental change strategies for a healthier community. The long-term goals of CEI are to increase healthy eating and active living and improve student outcomes in the participating communities.

Andrea Anglin

Source: Wichita State University
Filed Under: Community, Education, Health

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