Seven diverse Kentucky communities are getting money to reduce the risk of chronic disease among Kentucky’s youth. The initial grants announced Thursday are part of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s new Investing in Kentucky’s Future initiative, a five-year, $3 million program.
“The health of our next generation is at stake,” said Susan Zepeda, CEO and president of the foundation. “Our goal is to help communities make positive changes in policies and service access that will help our children grow into healthy, productive adults. Regardless of the challenges, we want to help communities find new pathways to positive solutions.”
Community groups will use their initial grants to collect and analyze local health data. That analysis will guide development of innovative strategies for effective, sustainable measures to improve children’s health. Those communities chosen for the initiative are:
• Clinton County School District, Albany: initial grant of $27,755 for the Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition. “We are thrilled that our community was chosen to participate in this important initiative,” Asst. Supt. Paula Little said. “The members of the Healthy Hometown Coalition are committed to helping children grow up in a physical, social, and cultural environment that supports good health habits. With help from the foundation, we can develop our capacity to make a lasting, positive change in our community.”
• Fitness for Life Around Grant County, Williamstown: initial grant of $21,643 for FFLAG and the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “We are pleased and excited to be given the opportunity to work with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky,” FFLAG Chairman Jeff Walters said. “We are a small group that has been working on improving the health of our community and we believe we’ve had a positive impact thus far. This grant will accelerate the process and the work that’s been started.”
• Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Hazard: initial grant of $32,558 for Perry County Wellness Coalition. “We’ve been working for several years to improve the menu and encourage better eating habits in and out of school,” said Linda Campbell, nutrition director at Perry County Schools. “It’s not as easy as changing a menu or just buying whole wheat bread. We’re changing a culture, and that’s not a simple thing. Working together, as a community, we can really start to make a difference. This grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky allows us to take the next steps toward helping our kids to become healthier.”
• Green River Area Development District, Owensboro: initial grant of $40,483 for Partnership for a Healthy McLean County. “The Partnership for a Healthy McLean County realizes the impact community organizations, schools, work sites and health care have on the health of families,” said Jiten Shah, executive director of the district. “Obesity is a major factor for many chronic diseases which can begin in childhood and continue into adulthood. “
• Kentucky Heart Foundation Inc., Ashland: initial grant of $19,245 for Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities in Ashland. “Investing in Kentucky’s Future is a perfect fit for the work of the Healthy Kids Coalition and gives us the opportunity to continue to work on policy, system and environmental changes to improve the health of children in Boyd and Greenup counties,” said Laura Patrick, coordinator of Healthy Kids, Healthy communities. “We know that this approach will help sustain change for years to come and what is great about it is that it is sustainable.”
• Kentucky River Community Care, Inc., Jackson: initial grant of $34,156. “This foundation grant will help Breathitt County plan more opportunities for youth and families to participate in healthy lifestyle activities,” said Bridget Turner, KRCC director of clinical services. “We need to develop a strategic plan to specifically address the many barriers that face our children and threaten their future. Education, prevention, behavioral health, physical health, nutrition, employment, substance abuse are a few of the issues that we are trying to deal with in our county.”
• Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness: initial grant of $34,160. “If we are ever going to realize a healthier future for our citizens, we must improve the health of our young people,” said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the department. “These funds from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky will facilitate a coordinated, systemic approach to overcome the health barriers that many of our youth face. The grant will allow us to formulate policies and strategies to improve health that are based on accurate data with buy-in from stakeholders across the community.”
Reducing chronic diseases to improve Kentuckians’ health
Chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, are those that last over time, decrease quality of life, increase the risk of early death and occur at higher rates in Kentucky than in surrounding states; substance abuse and some mental illnesses are also chronic diseases.
Kentucky’s children are at greater risk than most for chronic diseases, including high rates of obesity and smoking. When children grow up, they are at an increased risk for heart disease, cancer or stroke, and Kentucky is above the national average in deaths from these diseases.
The Investing in Kentucky’s Future initiative will help Kentucky communities confront this cycle of problems. The foundation is encouraging local leaders to identify how best to engage the community in order to have the biggest impact.
“This is the first step in our multi-year approach, which will lead to implementation of permanent solutions for healthier communities,” said Zepeda. “We believe that by working together on the local level, civic leaders with vision can develop innovative strategies to improve the health of our children.”
More than 50 interested organizations responded to the foundation’s request for proposals in October last year, and 22 were invited to submit a full proposal. The foundation’s board of directors approved funding for seven as part of the initiative. Click here to read more about the foundation.