Community rallies days after 11Alive declares Spalding “unhealthiest” metro county

Griffinites expressing sentiments ranging from outrage to disbelief, sadness to pessimism spread across social media on March 20 regarding an 11Alive news footage reporting that “one cannot find a less healthy county than Spalding.”

The report used statistics and ranking complied by the University of Wisconsin (UW) and the Robert Wood Johson Foundation, highlighting a high unemployment rate and low graduation rate. The news outlet compared Spalding to Forsyth County, which the study identified as the healthiest county in Georgia, with lower single parent households obese adults and children in poverty.

Though some expressed lack of surprise and pessemism regarding the report, one local woman, Heather Beauchamp, decided to begin a Facebook group to begin combatting the unhealthy statistics. Just hours after the report aired, Beauchamp created “Grow Better: How we respond to Channel 11’s story on Spalding County,” and the group grew rapidly to over 300 people.

Fueled by the problems to which 11Alive had drawn the public eye, these individuals began brainstorming ways to solve these issues. Beauchamp wrote, “I know everyone had a strong reaction, and I know that discussion isn’t the solution, action is, but we have to get our ideas out there, and organize.”

Only four days after the airing of the report, over 50 people including local business owners, church pastors and members, educators, non-profit administrators and engaged citizens gathered at Bank Street Cafe on a Sunday evening to discuss how to move forward with making changes.

Theo Harris, program developer with the Spalding County Collaborative, mentioned considering a re-entry task force to help lower recidivism rates. He stated that statewide, roughly $1.1 billion per year is being spent to reincarcerate the same people over and over again, and is working to implement programs that would help people remain in the community rather than returning to prison.

Christopher Blalock, a local counselor, added to Harris’s point by sharing two of the insights he gained from a few former prisoners when he asked them about what issues faced their community: fatherlessness and inability to find a job because no one wants to hire a former felon. He urged local business owners to not just throw away an application if they check that box, but rather ask the story of what happened and get to know that person. Others shared their desire to be involved and their areas of interest. Will Doss of the Spalding Collaborative shared existing programs that have already been working to alleviate many of the problems 11Alive and the Wisconsin study pointed out.

Amanda Slade of Safehouse Coffee Roasters extolled the value of attending meetings and cultivating personal relationships with city and county leaders in order to accomplish tasks. “I believe that relationships are the way that you do anything in this town,” Slade said. “I printed out all the ways you can get involved with the City of Griffin… I know nobody wants to do that because nobody wants the government telling them what to do but it only works if we do get involved with them and let them know what we want.”

Visit the Grow Better Facebook group, to follow the updates and get involved. Ω

The Grip apologizes to Christopher Blalock, who was mistakenly identified as David Blalock in the original print article.

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Comments

  1. The University of Wisconsin did a nation-wide public health study. They looked at stats for EVERY county in the country. 11Alive just featured the highest & lowest ranking counties in the metro (channel viewing) area. If you look at the study’s website closely, you will see that Spalding is not the lowest county in Georiga. The local group needs to address the five core disciplines of public health – especially environmental health and behavorial/social science. Thank you, Heather, for being a leader!

  2. ggbuster@gmail.com says:

    I just have one question? Why would Wisconsin come and view us. Maybe they should view their own state.

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