Friday, May 25, 2018

Grant program for children's health enters final year; foundation hopes seven local projects can be replicated statewide

As a five-year, $3 million grant that focuses on children's health moves into its final year, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is gearing up to share the seven grantees stories as a way to help other communities do the same.

Most recently, foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler visited McLean County to review the progress of the "Partnership for a Healthy McLean County," part of the "Investing in Kentucky's Future" program. The initiative is intended to reduce the risk that today's school-aged children will develop debilitating chronic diseases as adults.

The McLean partnership used its five-year, $260,000 grant, and nearly $134,000 in local funds, to combat childhood obesity. It led to several new programs along the way.

The efforts included improving facilities to encourage more outdoor activity, adding programs in local schools to increase classroom movement, expanding nutrition programs, and supporting policy changes that ensure better nutrition and more physical activity in the daily lives of students, with the help of new physical-education equipment.

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"I have seen first-hand the joy and excitement on the students' faces when they were given the new PE equipment," Brook Fogle, a program specialist with the Green River District Health Department, said in a foundation news release. "I have heard nothing but praise from the teachers that because of the new PE curriculum, they have been given the opportunity to teach kids that physical fitness can be fun."

Fogle said the local health coalition has added new partners since its inception, all while growing and strengthening the existing ones. "All in all, the grant has been beneficial in a multi-level way," she said.

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 next step is to take this . . . and other IKF case studies on the road, sharing and expanding what has been learned here to benefit even more residents of McLean County and other Kentucky communities," Chandler said in the release. "We'll also be making the connections between experienced coalition managers like Brooke Fogle with motivated leaders in other Kentucky communities who want to replicate the success of McLean County."

Six of the seven grantees, including McLean 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.

"The foundation designed these grants to create lasting change," Chandler said."While we won't necessarily see changes of obesity rates in just a few years, we do expect to see an increase in the exercise and dietary behaviors that research shows will lead to healthier weight down the line."

The other grantees are: Purchase Area Connections for Health (McCracken County), Fitness for Life Around Grant County, the Breathitt County Health Planning Council for Children, the Perry County Wellness Coalition, the Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition, and the Bounce Coalition in Jefferson County.

Later this year, the foundation will start a final evaluation of the IKF initiative, which will be shared publicly.

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