In addition, the Breathitt County Health Planning Council for Children (BCHPCC), the Foundation's grantee, helped develop the Breathitt County Diabetes Coalition - Diabetes Prevention Program, which is helping several county residents to lose weight. The 12-month program, now working with the third cohort of participants, includes cooking and exercise classes and education about diabetes prevention and healthier living.
"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. "Most BCHPCC members sit on the advisory board with partnering agencies, which advances our agenda. Increased collaboration between community partners, reinforced by the BCHPCC, has led to the creation of diabetes-focused programming, the expansion of our Farmer's Market and community garden, and the launch of a local seed library."
The Foundation's $313,800 grant over a five-year period to the BCHPCC, matched by $169,790 in local funds, is part of the Foundation's "Investing in Kentucky's Future" (IKF) initiative, now in its final year. The IKF initiative is intended to reduce the risk that today's school-aged children will develop debilitating chronic diseases as adults. The Breathitt Coalition is one of seven communities that were funded through IKF.
That report showed that cross-sector collaboration led by strong community members can have an outsized impact on creating better-than-expected health outcomes in communities challenged by a lack of resources.
At the end of the IKF initiative, the Foundation will create a video and other materials to share what has been learned in the seven communities so other local health coalitions can implement in their own areas what has proven successful in Breathitt and the other grantee counties.
The Foundation has invested $3 million in seven Kentucky communities over a five-year period under the IKF initiative. The communities were selected based on the presence of strong cross-sectoral collaboration of civic leaders committed to improving local health. Each coalition chose the issue they wanted to address and provided a matching grant. Six of the grantees including BCHPCC chose childhood obesity prevention as their focus. The seventh coalition is addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs. The Foundation provided funding for a planning period, during which each coalition developed a business plan. In addition, the Foundation is providing training and technical assistance throughout the grant period.
Here are some of the accomplishments to date under the grant in Breathitt County:
- Water bottle filling stations were installed at Douthitt Park, complementing the fitness equipment installed at the park in 2016 under the grant.
- Drinking fountains were also installed in all schools to encourage students and staff to drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
- A playground, a track and physical activity equipment have been installed at various locations in the county.
Handicap accessible tables were installed at city parks.
- Students in both school districts now have completed three years of healthy eating and physical activity curriculum.
- Four of five elementary schools in the county have a program in place that provides the students fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and fresh fruits were added to the backpack program.
- The coalition partners have improved and grown the Farmers Market and the community vegetable garden as well as implemented a seed library at the public library.
- Healthy snack options are offered at park concession stands.
- Students in grades K-5 in both school districts participated in the "Take 10" program to increase physical activity and nutrition knowledge during the school day. "Planet Health," a nutrition and physical activity curriculum, was implemented with youth in grades 6-8.
- A total of at least 74 youth have participated in 12local 5K and 10K "fun runs" that the Coalition holds each year, with many youths participating in multiple runs.
- More local sports leagues have been added.
- Shared-use agreements now in place among Jackson Parks and Recreation, both local school districts, and a local community college allow community activities to be provided year-round regardless of weather.
- "Health and wellness" is now a standing item on the Superintendent's Advisory Council agenda.
- Youth are permanently represented in decision making through the Breathitt County Youth Health Council; youth also led the #gethealthybc social marketing campaign.
Chandler said that the training provided by the Foundation, in areas such as business plan development, evaluation and results-based accountability, sustainability planning, policy development, social marketing, school wellness policies and youth engagement, have strengthened the coalitions' skills so they can address additional health issues successfully in the future.
The Foundation will conduct a final evaluation of the IKF initiative beginning later this year, assessing 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. That report, the above-mentioned video and other materials will be shared publicly.
"The Foundation designed these grants to create lasting change," Chandler said. "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. 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."
About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested nearly $28 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth. Follow the Foundation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and visit our website at www.healthy-ky.org.
Bonnie J. Hackbarth