Key Points

· This article summarizes how 29 diverse communities throughout Colorado implemented the Colorado Healthy Communities Initiative (CHCI), which was conceived and funded by The Colorado Trust to engage community residents in the development of locally relevant strategies to improve community health.

· In line with the World Health Organization’s Healthy Cities model, CHCI emphasized (a) inclusive, representative planning; (b) a broad definition of “health”; (c) consensus decision making; and (d) capacity building among local stakeholder groups.

· Communities implemented an array of projects (on average, six per community) that extended well beyond traditional health promotion and disease prevention. The most common action projects focused on community problem solving, civic engagement, and youth development. Many of the grantees established projects or new institutions that had a long-term community impact.

· Key success factors for CHCI included (a) a wellspecified planning model, (b) a planning process facilitated by expert consultants, (c) a unifying “healthy community” vision developed at the beginning of the process by diverse stakeholders, (d) a willingness by stakeholders to work collaboratively to define “key performance areas” and then to implement “action projects” to achieve them, and (e) an appropriate level of funding for implementation ($50,000 per site per year).

· The outcomes and impacts of CHCI might have been improved by better anticipating the requirements for sustaining the energy and work initiated during the planning process.

· At the end of the initiative, CHCI provided the funders with a broader, deeper understanding of the requirements, opportunities, and realities associated with promoting “community health.”

Open Access