LAWRENCE — Talk about timely. In 1995, when the Internet’s popularity was soaring, the University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development launched the Community Tool Box website — a free resource to help communities at home and abroad improve health and development.
Since then, the Community Tool Box has burgeoned. The website now includes 7,000 pages of resource materials in English and in Spanish. In addition, the process of translating and culturally adapting the pages into Arabic is about half-completed, and efforts are underway to translate all of the website into Portuguese, French, Chinese and Russian.
Users worldwide rely on the Community Tool Box. In the past 12 months, more than 5.8 million visitors from 230 countries accessed the site. Two-thirds of those visitors came from outside the United States.
To support financial sustainability of both the Tool Box and the KU Work Group, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded a $250,000 grant to KU Endowment. Since the inception of the Tool Box, private philanthropy and funds generated by KU Work Group’s contractual services have supported it. The grant will provide resources for the Work Group and Tool Box to develop a long-range business plan to ensure vitality well into the future. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also provided generous support for the Tool Box during the program’s early years — support that helped position it for success.
Stephen Fawcett, KU’s Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Professor of Applied Behavioral Science, founded the KU Work Group for Community Health and Development in 1975 and has directed it since then. He co-developed the Community Tool Box and has remained actively involved in it. He plans to retire this year.
“The original vision of the Community Tool Box was to be a common well, a place where people working to build healthier and more just communities could find what they needed to be more effective and to be inspired by the work of others,” Fawcett said. “We are so grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for helping us assure that this capacity-building resource will continue to grow and serve those we will never meet in places we will never be.”
The project supported by this grant will be led by Christina Holt, associate director for Community Tool Box services at the KU Work Group. Others involved in the Community Tool Box include Jerry A. Schultz, co-director, and Vince Francisco, incoming co-director, of the KU Work Group.
The Tool Box’s open-source resources are freely available for all. They cover a wide range of issues pertinent to highly populated urban areas in the United States as well as to remote villages in developing nations. For instance, many health departments in the U.S. use the website for their work regarding access to health care services, including mental health, healthy food, physical activity, poverty and jobs. Halfway around the world, professors at a university in Ghana use Tool Box curriculum to train hundreds of community health students each year. These students are placed in remote villages and rely on Tool Box resources to address local needs — issues that may include access to clean water, education and food security.
The KU Work Group is a center within the Life Span Institute and a unit within the Department of Applied Behavioral Science in KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is housed on the fourth floor of the Dole Human Development Center, and the Tool Box website is hosted by the Information Technology department in KU’s computer center. Visitors may access the Community Tool Box at ctb.ku.edu.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.
Photo: Pictured from left are Stephen Fawcett, Christina Holt and Jerry Schultz.