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HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced 22 grants to support communities implementing President George W. Bush's HealthierUS initiative to help Americans live longer, healthier lives. The grants focus on reducing the burden of diabetes, overweight, obesity and asthma and addressing risk factors such as physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco use in 40 communities.
"Through the Steps to a HealthierUS grants, we are heeding President Bush's call to reach Americans in the places where they live, work and go to school in order to encourage healthier choices," Secretary Thompson said. "We are building a healthier nation by motivating Americans to eat nutritious foods, be physically active and not use tobacco products."
Secretary Thompson added that diabetes, asthma, overweight and obesity were chosen as targets because of their rapidly increasing prevalence in the United States and the ability for individuals to control and even prevent these diseases through exercise, diet and other strategies. The number of people with diabetes in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade to 18.2 million. An estimated 10 million adults and 5 million children suffer from asthma, and the number of cases of obesity in this nation has increased more than 50 percent over the past two decades.
Steps to a HealthierUS grants total $35.7 million this year. Twelve grantees were awarded grants in 2003 through this program. Each program received increased funding in 2004 and many doubled their funding from the previous year. In addition, there are 10 new programs that were awarded grants this year.
The grants will help implement community action plans in 40 communities nationwide. Examples of programs in schools, health care and workplace settings include organized community interventions such as walking programs, health education trainings and media campaigns; environmental interventions like smoking cessation programs and increasing healthy food choices in schools; and educational interventions like enhancing coordinated school health programs.
Examples of Steps grantee activities include:
Hillsborough County, Fla. will use its grants to promote programs including community and school education, patient follow-up, training and seminar opportunities for health care providers, after school programs and educational opportunities for parents. Hillsborough County includes 16 zip codes within the City of Tampa and Temple Terrace. This area has a high incidence of diabetes-related deaths, high poverty level and disproportionate health disparities in the burden of diabetes, asthma and obesity.
In Cleveland, Ohio, the Steps grant will support activities such as an educational campaign for health care providers and a competition between target neighborhoods that promotes better nutrition, physical activity and reduction of tobacco use.
The Alabama Steps program will increase training in asthma self-care management and promote a smoking cessation program.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma will use its grant to increase physical education activities in grades K-6, expand tobacco quitlines, smoking bans and smoking cessation programs and implement "Wisdom Steps," a health promotion program targeting seniors.
The Philadelphia Steps program has used its grant to hire a school health coordinator, implement a worksite wellness program, provide training to teachers and other school employees on nutrition and enhanced diabetes self-management education programs.
Steps programs will target rural communities, low-income populations, Hispanics and Latinos, American Indians and Alaska Natives, African-Americans, immigrants, youth, senior citizens, uninsured and underinsured people and other populations at high risk. Partners include departments of education and health, school districts, health care providers, national and local health organizations, faith-based agencies, private sector and academic institutions.
Secretary Thompson noted that these grants build on the department's substantial efforts to promote innovative methods to prevent disease and promote public health. The Secretary recently announced $2 million in grants to the national office of the YMCA (Y-USA). With more than 2,500 YMCA's in the country, this funding will help strengthen the network of local YMCA chapters by developing and implementing strategies to work together with the 40 Steps grant communities. The department held its third annual "Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day" last week to encourage minority communities to seek preventive health services. Last March, the Secretary unveiled a new public service advertising campaign with the Ad Council, which targets obesity and promotes healthy lifestyles. In addition, the second Steps to a HealthierUS summit was held in Baltimore, Md., to foster discussion about the prevention of disease and promotion of healthy choices.
Top officials visited schools across the country today to underscore the Administration's commitment to promoting healthy children. Secretary Thompson announced the 2004 grants while visiting a school benefiting from Steps grants in Philadelphia. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona is visiting a new Steps grantee in Cleveland, Ohio, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding is visiting a new program in DeKalb County, Ga. In addition, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman visited schools to discuss programs to teach children about nutritious choices and physical activity.