March 2003

Mercy Medical Center, Nampa, Idaho

Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth

0303Mercy_Medical_Nampa_Sale Photo

Youth help unload items for the annual community sale hosted by Mercy Medical Center in Nampa. All proceeds from the sale go to fund asset-building activities.

The many healthy community partners in Nampa, a rapidly growing and diversifying community in southwestern Idaho, believe that a focus on youth is the key to a healthy community. Their "Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth" initiative operates under the slogan "It’s better to build a young person than to rehabilitate an adult," and they accomplish this by partnering in unconventional ways to build the community. "By working to increase the developmental assets of young people, we also build relationships with the adults in their lives and the younger children who look to them as role models," said Lynn Borud, vice president of community development and public relations for Mercy Medical Center. First in state to implement Search survey Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth started eight years ago, when Nampa became the first community in Idaho to conduct the Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth survey developed by the Search Institute of Minneapolis, Minn. The survey identifies which of 40 developmental assets are present in the lives of a community’s young people. The assets are external or internal and include family support, service to others, positive peer influences, honesty and self-esteem. "Generally, the survey gives us a way to take a look at the vital signs of the young people in our community," said Borud. "We see which assets are present in their lives and can do something to add those that are missing. We take this approach because we believe that any time you improve the life of a child, you improve the life of a family and of the community as a whole. This is part of our daily mission." The Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth coalition has raised more than $730,000 during the past 10 years through Mercy’s annual community sale, all of which has been used to begin or partner in programs that serve youth. Mercy Medical Center has been the catalyst and has played an integral role in forming and maintaining the coalition and in creating one of the community’s most important assets–a 170,000-square-foot community center. "Mercy donated 13 acres of land for the community center," said Borud. "It gives young people a safe place to go and a place to build intergenerational relationships." Activities for the mind, body and spirit While the community center is an impressive bricks-and-mortar result of Nampa’s healthy community focus, the Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth coalition is extremely broad. It includes after-school homework clubs, athletic programs, a program that secures donated band instruments for kids, reading programs, drama clubs, field trips and much more. Coalition members include faith communities, schools, sports leagues, service clubs, businesses and law enforcement. "From the very beginning, we invited a lot of people to the table," said Borud. "No one organization or person can accomplish this work alone. We realize that none of us is as strong as all of us." To ensure that Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth stays focused on the right issues, the coalition conducted the Search Institute survey again in 1998 and 2000. "Our community had a growth rate of 82 percent during the 1990s and has become a real cultural melting pot," said Borud. "With the population expanding so rapidly, we didn’t want to wait the recommended five years between surveys. For example, because of the surveys we know that in 1995 63 percent of our kids were home after school in unstructured, unsupervised environments; now, that is down to 52 percent because of the after-school homework clubs." Recognition for Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth Healthy Nampa, Healthy Youth has been recognized for its work by the governor of Idaho and the Association of Idaho Cities. Currently, 42 other communities in Idaho and several communities in other states are modeling Nampa’s healthy community approach. "We’re thrilled to share our model and our philosophy," said Borud, who often speaks on healthy community topics. "This only happens when you have full support from your chief executive officer and governing board." One book that Borud recommends to anyone interested in this work is All Kids Are Our Kids, by Dr. Peter Benson. "It introduces the 40 developmental assets and explains that young people who have more of these assets avoid many high-risk behaviors," he said. "It also challenges communities to reclaim their capacity and responsibility for raising children to be healthy, successful and caring adults. When we don’t, we end up picking up the tab for the problems they experience in their lives, whether or not they live under our roofs." For more information, contact Lynn Borud at