Vital Signs Volume 13, Issue 2 | Page 6

We h ily e D espite being located across the street from sev- eral hospitals, Smoketown is a community with poor health outcomes and life expectancy well below our city’s average. Half of the residents within the two square-mile neighborhood don’t have personal transportation, therefore any relief to the socio-economic issues they face needs to grow organi- cally from within the community. Introducing the Smoketown Family Wellness Center (SFWC). “Ten years is a really long time. Think of what you have done in the last 10 years,” said Founder Dr. Charlotte Stites during the SFWC’s grand opening. “A child born in Smoketown has a life expectancy of 10 years less than the average in our com- munity. The goal of the Family Wellness Center is to change this, to give a child born here the chance to live a happy, healthy and productive life that they deserve. Ultimately, we want to add 10 years to their life.” Time was on the minds of all who attended the March 24 th SFWC Grand Opening at the historic Presbyterian Community Center. Dr. Stites, alongside community leaders, board mem- bers and Executive Director Dr. Kish Cumi, worked for more than four years to make this wellness center a reality. Mayor Greg Fischer congratulated Dr. Stites during the grand opening by saying, “This is what winning looks like. A lesser person, a lesser team, a lesser community would have frankly given up on this, but each obstacle was an opportunity for people to come together. It’s been inspiring to watch.” When GLMS visited the soon-to-be SFWC just six months ago 6 in November 2017, construction was far from completion. The six examination rooms were bare, the nursing station and reading centers were nowhere to be seen. But, Dr. Stites’ spir- its were high. There was an end in sight. “In some ways, I’ve been thinking about this since medical school. I left my practice in 2012 to get involved with the Lou- isville Metro Health Department. I was learning about popula- tion health for the first time in my career,” she recalled. Network Center for Community Change, a grassroots commu- nity organization, hosted monthly community events known as Network Nites. These offered an opportunity to engage people through a short “shout out” presenting an idea or event. “When I offered the idea of opening a wellness center that combines medical care for children in a community setting to support families to help them grow up to be healthy in the Smoketown neighborhood, 25 people came up to ask about the SFWC and how to be involved. They wanted to be a part of it.” What struck Dr. Stites immediately was the personalities and loving nature of those living in Smoketown. “This is a Louisville neighborhood with the highest rate of death due to poverty, the highest rate of death due to diabe- tes, the third highest due to heart disease. There are all these negative things, but there’s more of a sense of community in this neighborhood than anywhere I’ve seen in Louisville,” she said. As she laid the plans, looked for a space and got to know the VITAL SIGNS Volume 13 • Issue 2