A bunch of athletes, cooks, gardeners and doctors began hanging behind Stetson Library this weekend. They were the very picture of health—literally.
The figures appear on a new mural devoted to community health on the back wall of the Stetson Branch Library on Dixwell Avenue.
Community leaders, neighbors, public officials and state health care executives came out to the library Saturday morning for a celebratory unveiling of the mural. The event served as well to highlight expanded access to medical care created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Community outreach representatives distributed information about obtaining coverage under Connecticut’s new insurance exchange, Access Health.
The mural, painted by local artist Katro Storm (pictured), was the product of a three-month partnership between Stetson and Access Health, which was set up to comply with the ACA. (Click here for a story about a previous mural Storm painted for Stetson.)
Danielle Williams (at left in photo), a community outreach manager, explained that the idea for health-themed murals—later this fall, murals will appear in Bridgeport and Hartford—came from her boss, Jason Madrak, Access Health’s chief marketing officer.
“It’s part of our outreach and engagement for the Affordable Care Act,” she said. Part of her job is to encourage uninsured young people to buy insurance, and to help low-income people who may not realize they now qualify for free Medicaid coverage. “We wanted to just be really creative with it,” she said.
For a few months, Madrak and Williams had an idea, but no artist. Then, in July, someone put Williams in touch with Storm, who in 2009 painted the mural that hangs on Stetson’s front wall. Storm proposed returning to Stetson for the New Haven community health mural. He suggested that Williams pitch the idea to Diane Brown, the library’s branch manager.
It wasn’t a tough sell.
“We clicked in five minutes in July, and said, ‘Let’s make it happen,’” said Brown (pictured), who described her relationship with Williams as “a sisterhood.” Brown and Storm had been dreaming of adding a mural to Stetson’s back wall for years, she said. “It was meant to be.”
For the painting, Storm chose the theme of preventive care. The images include kids playing sports, a group of girls cooking healthy food, and even someone getting his blood pressure checked.
“The mural advocates and inspires the black community to get healthy,” Brown said. She pointed out the black community’s higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health problems. “This advocates for us to take better care of ourselves.”
To Williams, the message couldn’t have been more appropriate. She said that one of the most important features of the new healthcare law is the expanded access to preventive care that it provides.
“The beauty of the ACA is that once your premium is paid, preventive care is available at no additional cost,” she said. “And if you look at healthcare reform over the last 25 years, that’s revolutionary.”
Taking advantage of benefits like screenings and regular checkups, she added, would keep Dixwell neighbors healthier, and cost society less, than relying on emergency room visits.
Storm said he hopes his work will encourage people to adopt more healthful lifestyles.
“People in this community need to see more positive images of themselves,” he said. He said that the community needs to be more aware of the types of habits and resources depicted in the mural: healthy eating, community gardening, medical checkups.
“I don’t think I have insurance myself, and I don’t get checked out,” he added.
Really? Was he planning to fix that?
“Yes,” he said sheepishly, gesturing to the Access Health tent. “I’m gonna go over and fill out the paperwork today.”