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Appalachian receives HRSA grant to address inactivity and obesity issues

BOONE—The Appalachian State University Institute for Health and Human Services received a $99,000 grant to prevent and better understand chronic diseases related to physical inactivity and obesity, and to better understand health risks of adolescents. The project, known as Appalachian Ashe Prevention Partnership’s (AAPP) project “Rural Health Outreach Special Initiative” is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

According to the 2007 Ashe Community Health Assessment, the counties of Ashe, Avery and Watauga have experienced steady increases in the incidence of childhood obesity each year for the last 12 years. Specifically, Ashe County has an adolescent obesity rate of 34.7 percent, compared to an overall state rate of 27 percent.  In addition, less than 50 percent of the adults in the western region of North Carolina meet the recommended physical activity standards.

This project will create a partnership with community health practitioners, schools, agencies concerned with promoting physical activity, district health department representatives and the Appalachian’s Institute for Health and Human Services.

The grant runs until Aug. 31, 2011.  All strategies to achieve the project’s three goals will be evaluated, and plans are in place to ensure that these programs are sustainable even after the funding has stopped.

To prevent chronic diseases linked to physical inactivity, the project will promote lifelong skills that are low-cost, fun and transferable. Strategies include TRACK Trail, a program that links learning with outdoor fun and family recreation, and after-school activities for kids that promote lifelong fitness such as a Girls on the Run pilot program, HOPSports programming, and a Physical Activity Resource Loan Library for Ashe County Middle School students and teachers.

To improve management of diseases linked to physical inactivity and obesity, such as cardiovascular diseases and type II diabetes, particularly among the uninsured with lack of access to healthcare, the project will support the Ashe County Health Alliance with strategic planning. The project will also provide quality care and supplies to support the Ashe County HealthNet Coordinator to be able to provide case management for underinsured clients.

To gain a better understanding of the health risks of the adolescent population, the project will conduct a comprehensive Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) for 9-12 grade students in Ashe County.  Major findings will be shared with the community through a community-wide campaign, and community stakeholders will be convened to develop a plan of action to address concerns.

Other partners for this project include Be Active-Appalachian Partnership, Appalachian District Health Department and the Ashe County Healthy Carolinians of Ashe Memorial Hospital.

For more information about the project, contact Mary Sheryl Horine, associate director of the Institute for Health and Human Services, at 828-262-7557.