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Letter to the Editor: Building A Healthy Community takes an Alliance


Nearly 23 years ago, as a new school district administrator, I was asked to work with a newly chartered regional network named the Healthy Community Alliance. Funded by a $200,000 grant from the state’s Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health, the Alliance was launched in 1996 as one of 32 networks. To this day, the organization focuses on the health-related needs of rural communities including Arcade, Springville and Gowanda.

As a founding member of HCA, I marvel at how it has matured into a highly adaptable nonprofit dynamo that thrives in a shifting environment of competition and cooperation. Nowadays our service area includes 57 zip codes in four western counties. Last year HCA staff served more than 20,000 individuals across dozens of programs all designed to enhance the quality of rural life.  

HCA accomplishments have historically supported young people, families and older citizens with special attention to the disadvantaged or underserved. One of our signature programs, available to all school districts, is Fitness and Fun, which combines health fairs, fitness testing and nutrition education. Grants won by the Alliance ensure safe routes to schools, after-school programs and family counseling centers. About $20 million in grant programs have advanced since 2007, aside from the enrichments of a unique HCA headquarters facility known as Community Place.  

This facility is a stoutly built, health-focused former elementary school in downtown Gowanda. Thanks to HUD funding, the second and third floors offer 32 units of affordable senior housing. In addition, there are adult day services, audiology services, a county store pantry, a private counseling practice, a family center, a county senior wellness and nutrition site, congregate dining plus off-site delivery of meals and family medicine offices. In short, Community Place is an ideal central location for recreation, wellness and health promotion for everyone.

Currently, the Alliance is playing an essential role in statewide health care reform. A major purpose is to reduce the costs and improve services to Medicaid patients. A key goal is to activate patient engagement in services that may forestall unnecessary hospital emergency room visits yet help the underserved take advantage of primary care services and Medicaid coverage.    

Our diverse activities demand excellence in nonprofit management and policy. Our executive leadership is outstanding. Our financial audits have been virtually faultless. Policy, direction and accountability are provided by our 14-member volunteer board of directors. The board includes non-profit health service providers, hospital employees, educators, government officials and others with an interest in community health.   

Our directors’ priorities include sustaining voluntary commitment through boardsmanship. We anticipate openings on our board in the near future. If you are interested and would like a copy of our annual report, please contact CEO Ann Battaglia at 532-1010 or by email Feel welcome to tour Community Place on School Street in Gowanda, or access our web site at  


Dr. Jeffrey M. Bowen

Healthy Community Alliance


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