Summer festivals build healthy communities

Published 12:02 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Summer festivals are good, affordable (even free) entertainment for families. But they can be more than just fun. Whether they celebrate art, music, or culture, community festivals can have a wealth of positive effects, including:

• Boosting the economy, by drawing visitors and tourists;

• Building community pride and identity, especially for those who chip in and volunteer;

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• Providing fundraising opportunities for high school bands, sports teams, churches or other organizations who rent out parking space, sell bottled water and cater to festival goers;

• Offering affordable, healthy entertainment options, which help keep people active, engaged and connected with friends, family and neighbors.

This year, WellCare of Kentucky is sponsoring three Eastern Kentucky festivals in two communities – investing $6,500 directly into these important and iconic events. This year, you can look for references to WellCare at the Mountain Heritage Festival in Whitesburg, the Levitt AMP Whitesburg Music Series and the Poke Sallet Festival in Harlan. Growing up in Harlan County, I remember looking forward to my family attending every year, and I am thrilled to continue that tradition by bringing my son!

We don’t engage in sponsorships like this lightly. As Kentucky’s largest Medicaid provider, we invest only in those activities that we believe help build the health of the state we love.

But we also understand that so much of what impacts an individual’s health is the community they live in – the availability of fresh food, good jobs and good schools. These are, broadly speaking, part of what we sometimes call the “social determinants of health.”

Some social determinants affect one person at a time. For example, social isolation, which often affects older adults, has a negative impact on health. Other determinants impact an entire community – food pantries, sports programs, clean air.

For years, WellCare has worked hard to address some of these key social determinants of health. Sponsoring these festivals is an extension of that work – a way of investing back in the communities where so many people have trusted us with their healthcare needs.

When I visit these festivals this year, I will take a special pride in knowing that WellCare helped make these events happen because I’m an eastern Kentuckian who is thankful that my company invests in the area we all call home.