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Healthy Savannah celebrates at its annual meeting

Healthy Savannah celebrated 14 years of milestones and installed new officers at the organization’s annual meeting on May 18 at the Charles H. Morris Center. The public-private coalition launched by former Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson in 2007 also renewed its commitment to create and support a healthier, safer, and more accessible environment for all people to live, learn, work, pray, and play.

Since its inception, Healthy Savannah has cultivated partnerships with more than 200 businesses, nonprofits, faith- and community-based organizations, schools, and healthcare and government agencies to develop policies and improve environments to assist people in making healthier choices.

In recognizing those partnerships, Healthy Savannah presented its 2021 Health Innovation Award to the Savannah H.O.P.E. Photovoice Project which identifies social, cultural and physical barriers that discourage breastfeeding while also identifying opportunities to remove them.

“I’d like to thank the moms who took the time to tell us their stories and invite us into their lives, especially in a pandemic,” said Nandi A. Marshall, DrPh, MPH, CHES, the project’s developer. “I want to encourage your support of breastfeeding support policies in the community and workplace.” Marshall also acknowledged the contributions of Healthy Savannah, the Chatham County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control in nurturing the Photovoice Project, as well as her graduate assistant, Christina Cook.

Nominees for the Health Innovation Award who were also recognized for their contributions to Healthy Savannah included Center Parc Credit Union’s Community Gardens program, Enmarket’s Encourage Health Series, the Humane Society for Greater Savannah and the Teenish Podcast.

Jovan Sage served as keynote speaker for the event. As the Alchemist behind Sage’s Larder, Sage guides people to find their own resiliency through food, herbal tea, plants, and energetic practice.

“I believe in seeding healing, resiliency, and joy daily,” said Sage, whose work is interwoven between her roles as food alchemist, herbalist, birthworker, agri(cultural) advocate, facilitator, & change-maker. “My focus is on the intersections of race, culture within wellness, sustainability, food and agriculture.”

The annual event also afforded the opportunity for outgoing chair Randy McCall, Ph.D., to hand over the gavel to the incoming chairperson, Lillian Grant-Baptiste (left).

“Healthy Savannah has been at the forefront, ensuring cleaner air for everyone with the passage of the Smokefree Air Ordinance, increasing the amount of safe walking and biking areas with the formation of Tide to Town and the construction of the Truman Linear Park Trail, and linking priority populations to a variety of health resources with the launch of the HERO database,” said McCall. “However, there are still public health issues plaguing Savannah and great inequities in need of addressing. Healthy Savannah knows the actions we must take, and with the community’s continued support, we will help enact lasting changes to benefit the lives of all Savannahians.”

Grant-Baptiste has most recently served as vice-chair of Healthy Savannah’s Board of Directors and as committee chair of the organization’s Faith and Health Coalition.

“The last year has been emotionally, spiritually and physically distressful and has laid bare the tremendous impact of systemic racism, which includes vast and entrenched health disparities and inequities that exist in our nation and in our community,” said Grant-Baptiste. “As Healthy Savannah celebrates our 14th anniversary, we are even more committed to helping to break down barriers in communities with critical health needs, including food insecurity, disproportionate exposure to chronic illnesses, and the lack of access and awareness to important health services. Regardless of the tremendous challenges and complexities that we face, we remain resolutely committed to our mission and vision, we will continue to seek to inspire the community and we will always grow and evolve.”

In addition to its new chairperson, members of Healthy Savannah unanimously affirmed new executive Board members Blake Caldwell, Nick Deffley and Dr. Thomas Bullock. The group also recognized retiring members for their service to the organization and welcomed new members.

“COVID didn’t stop us,” said Paula Kreissler, executive director. “We are still connected, still inspiring and always growing.”

This article originally appeared in the Savannah Business Journal.

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