“I did not buy this land to sell; I bought it for my children.” (1858)
This creed, that celebrates family and the strength of intergenerational ties, has sustained a group of German Catholic immigrants and their descendents in a rural area of mid-Michigan over the past two centuries (Westphalia Historical Society 1986). Pewamo, Westphalia, and Fowler Michigan began as a small village of 300 families in the mid-1800’s and has since grown to their current combined population of around 14,000. Many residents of the three villages are descendants of the original founding immigrants. The residents of the community describe themselves as a close-knit, farming community of strong faith and German heritage. A high value is placed on the central role of family, church, and schools in village life. While the rural setting and family-church-school connections provide important resources related to the health of the community, challenges remain. Difficult economic times, distance from formal health care resources, an aging population, and common chronic health problems place ever-increasing demands on family and community resources. Through the CoSAGE Project, the residents of these three villages are leading the way in health research that is community-based and community-driven.