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SEARHC receives Community Transformation Grant



SITKA, Oct. 7, 2011 — The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) recently was awarded a five-year grant worth just under $500,000 per year as part of the Community Transformation Grants program from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Community Transformation Grants, which uses funds from the Affordable Care Act, are to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending. Approximately $103 million in prevention grants were awarded to 61 state and community health agencies (including seven tribal health organizations — such as SEARHC and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp., the only two grant recipients from Alaska — and the Republic of Palau).

Nationally, the grants are to focus on three priority areas — tobacco-free living; active living and healthy eating; and evidence-based quality clinical and other preventive services, specifically prevention and control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There were two types of grants — implementation to 35 grantees to operate programs designed to help improve health and wellness, and in capacity building to help 26 grantees develop the foundation needed so community prevention efforts can enjoy long-term success. SEARHC’s grant is for implementation.

“This funding will foster partnerships throughout the region to promote traditional and customary living activities which are based on traditional ways of eating, being active and avoiding tobacco,” said Kathy O’Gara, SEARHC Director of Health Promotion. “This funding is intended to be used at a community level to improve the overall community health through environmental changes and policy. Our local food choices can be enhanced by the berries in the freezer, lettuce from the garden, deer from the mountain and fish from the ocean. The physical activity that is necessary to harvest and hunt, as well as celebrate and share stories, goes a long way toward chronic disease prevention.”

The grant funding will be used to hire or contract with 3.5 staff members (full-time grant manager, health educator, evaluator and half-time data manager). It also will be used to sponsor a regional health conference about disease prevention and, near the end of the grant’s first year, to start awarding sub-grants to eligible community-based projects that meet the goals of the main grant. Some examples of possible projects include adding local and traditional foods to school lunches, working with grocery stores to move healthy fruit, nut and whole-grain snacks near cash registers, programs geared to stop youth smoking, building and paddling traditional canoes, expanding or enhancing tribal culture camps, hosting WISEGUYS or Girls on the Run physical activities, helping communities become friendlier for bicyclists and walkers, and more. Sub-grant award details will be made available after the new grant program staff is hired.

“The sub-award model has been successful in the past as it will capitalize on the local knowledge of community needs,” O’Gara said. “Projects will be policy based, or work to modify the environment to allow the healthy choice to be the easy choice. This is a region-wide grant and will benefit each community in a unique manner.”


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