Grant program for children’s health enters final year; foundation plans to create a video and report to share with other communities

As a $3 million Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky grant program that focuses on children’s health moves into its fifth and final year, the foundation says it will conduct the final evaluations of the seven grantee programs at the end of this year and then share the results with other communities.

The evaluations will asses not only policy changes and built environment additions, but also the extent to which the grants led to broader community engagement, a stronger coalition and the ability to leverage foundation funding for new and enhanced programs, says the release.

Most recently, the foundation reviewed the progress of the Breathitt County Health Planning Council for Children, which is part of the “Investing in Kentucky’s Future” grant program. The initiative is intended to reduce the risk that today’s school-aged children will develop debilitating chronic diseases as adults.

The Breathitt County partnership used its five-year, $313,800 grant, and nearly $170,000 in local funds, to combat childhood obesity as well as several other county-wide programs.

The efforts included improving facilities to encourage more outdoor activity, putting water bottle filling stations in both the local park and in schools, programs in local schools to increasing classroom movement, expanding nutrition programs, and supporting policy changes that ensure better nutrition and more physical activity in the daily lives of students and the citizens of the county.

The release notes that collaboration between the council and community partners also led to the creation of a 12-month diabetes-focused program, the expansion of the Farmer’s Market and community garden, and the launch of a local seed library.

Breathitt County (Wikipedia map)

“The grant is having a magnified impact across the county,” said Karen Back, a program coordinator at Kentucky River Community Care, Inc., and administrator of the grant.

One vision of the “Investing in Kentucky’s Future” initiatives is that the programs could be replicated across the state. To that end, the foundation says it will create a video and other materials that can be shared in other communities.

“The foundation designed these grants to create lasting change,” Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, said in the release. “To achieve that goal, we emphasized that the plans had to include the enactment of policies that make the healthier choice the easier choice and, for the obesity-prevention grantees’ plans, building community spaces to spur and reinforce the habit of moving around more often.”

Six of the seven grantees, including Breathitt County, chose childhood obesity prevention as their focus. The other chose to address adverse childhood experiences. In addition to the funding, the foundation also provided training and technical assistance throughout the grant period.

“While we won’t necessarily see changes of obesity rates in every community during the term of the grant, we do expect to see an increase in the exercise and dietary behaviors of local children that research shows will lead to improved community health down the line,” Chandler said.

The other grantees are Purchase Area Connections for Health (McCracken County), Fitness for Life Around Grant CountyPartnership for a Healthy McLean County, the Perry County Wellness Coalition, the Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition, and the Bounce Coalition in Jefferson County.