Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Foundation's $3 million program is helping seven counties become healthier in several ways, independent evaluation says

A initiative focused on children's health is helping the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky change community policies and environments, improve physical activity and nutrition, and strengthen health coalitions in seven Kentucky communities, according to an independent evaluation released by the foundation today.

The grants in the five-year, $3 million "Investing in Kentucky's Future" initiative are also providing useful lessons for place-based grantmakers, said the evaluation by the Center for Community Health and Evaluation, a research center of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.

The initiative is aimed at reducing the risk that today's school-aged children will develop chronic disease later in life. It has made matching grants for community health coalitions in Breathitt, Clinton, Grant, Jefferson, McCracken, McLean, and Perry counties. All are focused on preventing and reducing childhood obesity except the Louisville coalition, which is working to foster resiliency in children facing traumatic events and other experiences that can lead to toxic stress in childhood and chronic health conditions in adulthood.

"The real value of the Investing in Kentucky's Future initiative is that it's fostering the ability of these seven Kentucky communities to keep improving their residents' health long after the grant period ends," Charlie Ross, chair of the foundation's board of directors, said in a news release. "Yes, the grants have helped build some beautiful walking trails and playgrounds and ensure healthier foods at park concessions, but they've also created lasting partnerships, changed school and community policies, and developed the skills of a cross-sector coalition of people committed to making a healthier future for their children."

The evaluation listed five lessons from the initiative:
  1. Community-Driven Grant Approach: Allowing community health coalitions to study and determine their own health priorities and the solutions they would employ is leading to greater grantee engagement, but also to more diverse strategies.
  2. Coalition Approach: Requiring grantees to use or create a coalition of partners from a variety of sectors is helping build community support for the work. School engagement has been particularly important for the initiative, which focuses on school-aged children.
  3. Planning Phase to Promote Equity: Recognizing that communities have various levels of ability to compete for and implement grant programs, the foundation included funding for a required a planning phase during which grantees would develop a structured business plan to address their selected issue. The planning phase made the grant more accessible to communities with fewer resources.
  4. Sustainability Elements: Grant requirements that were focused on sustainability ─ the planning phase, a 50 percent cash match, a focus on changing policies in the community, and an evaluation ─ have given coalition members skills and experience to them continue to improve the health of their communities.
  5. Shorter-Term Evaluation Measures: The foundation recognized that significant changes in complex health issues take more than five years to see, so it focused its evaluation on shorter-term changes that have been proven to lead to longer-term health improvements.
Investing in Kentucky's Future is entering its fourth year, but some communities' grants will extend into 2019 because they started later than others. The grantees are: Partnership for a Healthy McLean County, Purchase Area Connections for Health (McCracken County), Fitness for Life Around Grant County, Breathitt County Health Planning Council for Children, Perry County Wellness Coalition, Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition, and the Bounce Coalition (Jefferson County).

A copy of the evaluation, "Toward a Healthier Kentucky: Lesson Learned from Evaluating Place-Based Community Health Improvement," is available here

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