Why WEforum? Building Health and Wellness Equality

May 2018

By Amy McDonagh, WEforum, Director of Strategic Development

WEforum is a non-profit organization that began with a gem of an idea to promote health within our community. Instead of the typical fundraiser luncheon or silent auction, we thought a conference to educate our women friends and others about health issues would be a more impactful. As we began researching and preparing for that initial conference, we were shocked when we realized the poor state of health in our country and in our community.

As covered in our previous article [put link here], our nation’s health statistics are mediocre and are declining. The same holds true here in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Chronic diseases account for 50% of deaths in the United States and those diseases do not discriminate along wealth, zip code, or ethnic lines. They affect all of us and in some cases, impact those in the lowest income brackets to a much larger extent.

Our challenge was to come up with a model that enabled us to increase health and wellness education, and to provide access to resources and services for the entire community, not just those who could afford to attend the conference.

Our response was to develop a multi-faceted system that leverages key partnerships to extend the depth and breadth of our community reach. We design and host events, both fee- based and free, that collectively increase access to information, education, and resources to all.

Paid events target a specific audience with relevant health and wellness information. We use the proceeds from these events to fund our local partners (e.g. Monmouth Medical Center, the Visiting Nurse Association, etc). They, in turn, develop health programs that reach the most disadvantaged in our community. Taken together these partner programs reach over 100,000 people in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Working with these and other partners, we host a variety of free programs with the goal of extending our reach to all who have an interest in health and wellness. For example:

  • Community Conversations: These are free to the community and focus on specific wellness topics. We recently partnered with Monmouth Medical Center and The Source Foundation at Red Bank Regional on a community event: “What the Health? You are What You Eat, So What are You Eating?
  • Community Garden Grant Program: We are launching a grant program this spring to fund community gardens in Asbury Park, Long Branch and Red Bank working with local partners. The goal is to increase access to fruits and vegetables for those in need in our community.
  • Wise Up: Teen Advocacy Group (TAG): In partnership with local high schools, we started school-based clubs to promote health and wellness topics relevant to young people. This group is responsible for their own programming and community promotion working on topics that resonate with their group and their peers.
  • WEsupport: This group was founded by mothers who have children diagnosed with ADHD or some sensory disorder (mild or severe). Experienced mothers share how they have navigated their children’s disorders and how they have become an advocate for their child. Together, resources are shared, and support is provided when new mothers are faced with a diagnosis that seems too complicated and overwhelming on multiple levels.
  • Wellness Ambassador Program: We collaborate with a wide variety of health and wellness individuals and businesses to leverage their skills and expertise for the benefit of the wider community. WEforum brings our community more information on what kinds of products and services are available locally and our Ambassadors let their clients know about WEforum events. Ambassadors include fitness studios, doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, holistic practitioners, healthy food restaurants, grocery stores and retail stores, etc.
  • Step Up: Advocates Changing Tomorrow (ACT Now): This group was formed by mothers who are activists in our community. Together, they have selected important issues to advocate for and will educate and inform the community on how we can collectively make a difference. Their first challenge will be to educate the community about plastics, how to recycle properly, and how the environmental degradation is affecting our health.

We also partner to host an array of paid events as fundraisers to ensure health and wellness information and services are accessible to all. These include:

  • WEforum Health and Wellness Conferences: This is our primary fundraising event. We design one of Monmouth and Ocean counties best marketed and attended health and wellness events. This year we expect over 600 people to attend, 200 vendors and a wide range of sponsors to help us fundraise to ensure all in our community have access to health and wellness information and services.
  • WEforum Fit Crawl: Held annually, the Fit Crawl is a great way to try new fitness studios, get a great workout with friends and celebrate! Each year our attendance increases as does the number of participating studios. The event proceeds fund free programs put on by our partners.
  • Dine and Chats: Similar to our community conversations, these are informational gatherings that focus on specific wellness topics. A small fee is charged to cover dining and expenses and help fund our free programs.

The WEforum model continues to grow, expand and improve with the goal of finding more and better ways to improve the health and wellness of our entire community.