The Y’s Community Health initiatives aim to increase the health outcomes of district residents

This content is sponsored by The YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

With the start of the New Year, many of us are thinking about our health: how to eat more veggies, be a bit more active, maybe even sleep more. But individual health can be complicated and confusing. Surprisingly, our interactions with our doctors and clinicians only account for about 20% of our health outcomes. Approximately 80% of our health contributing factors exist outside the clinic: factors like our physical environment, social support, access to healthcare and food are more indicative of health outcomes than our individual behaviors.[1]

The Y’s Community Health initiatives aim to increase the health outcomes of district residents by leveraging our rootedness in communities across the DMV. As a community center with a long history of social support, we believe that by listening to communities and understanding their unique assets and needs, we are able to lend a hand in health.

Our approach to health rests on three pillars: clinical partnerships, food access and education, and community building.

  1. Clinical Partnerships: We’ve partnering with local health providers to provide services for individuals and families across the District. We believe that partnerships between health care organizations and community-based organizations like the YMCA can effectively increase population health because they leverage the strengths of both parties: medicine and social services.
  2. Food Access and Education: We teach successive, evidence-based cooking classes for parents and children. Our program, The Community Table, is a total of sixteen weeks, and participants learn everything from the basics of nutrition and cooking, to meal-preparation and intuitive cooking. The program’s goals are to increase both confidence in the kitchen and nutritional knowledge. However, we know that providing education without access to food is not helpful. We partner with local food distributors to provide convenient access to local, healthy food for residents and revenue for farmers.
  3. Community building: We believe that the success of our program is built on relationships because we know that that the most impactful and effective programs are those that are participant-designed. We host monthly First Friday community dinners – free for anyone to join – because we know that breaking bread with our neighbors and friends is just as important as teaching nutrition. From these, we’ve seen strangers turn into friends and friendships build a community.

To learn more about our community health programs and how we’re building clinical partnerships, contact  Please also visit to learn more about the YMCA cooking and food programs that support our region’s health & well-being.


[1] Hood, C. M., K. P. Gennuso, G. R. Swain, and B. B. Catlin. 2016. County health rankings: Relationships between determinant factors and health outcomes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 50(2):129-135.

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