Health Care

Valley counties awarded federal grants to improve health

Two public health departments and a regional health initiative in the central San Joaquin Valley have been awarded multimillion-dollar federal grants to improve health and prevent chronic diseases.

Fresno County was awarded $1,585,154 and Merced County was given $1,350,000 for the first year of a three-year grant from Partnerships to Improve Community Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

The CDC awarded nearly $212 million nationwide in first-year funding to states, large and small cities and counties, tribes and tribal organizations and community groups. The grants, supported in part by the Affordable Care Act, will fund programs to reduce deaths and disability caused by tobacco use, obesity rates and deaths and disabilities related to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The Valley has some of the highest rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity in the state.

In Fresno and Madera counties, the grants will help create health and wellness programs and continue projects that were started three years ago with state funding. The state grants end this month.

Fresno County will partner with community agencies and organizations to build programs that help people make healthy life choices, said David Luchini, health department assistant director.

The department has been working to increase local produce served at schools, help hospitals become Baby Friendly centers that emphasize breast feeding and encourage medical providers to refer patients to nutrition education classes, Luchini said.

The Board of Supervisors will get details in upcoming weeks on how the federal grant will support those ongoing activities and new ones, he said.

In Merced, the federal grant also will allow the health department to continue community partnerships, said Kathleen Grassi, county health director. The department has several projects, including support for breast feeding, Grassi said.

The health department also is a partner with Merced City College, which is developing a campus 20/20 initiative to promote health. The college is considering a no-smoking policy and is looking at ways to increase healthy food options for students, she said.

And the University of California at Merced is working with the department to design health messages, including social media messaging and culturally and linguistically appropriate messages for the Hmong and Hispanic communities, Grassi said.

Hispanic communities in the Valley are the focus of another grant awarded by the CDC.

The Public Health Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes health in California, was awarded nearly $2.9 million over three years to launch a program as part of the CDC's Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Initiative.

The grant will focus on six largely Hispanic neighborhoods -- southeast Fresno and Orange Cove in Fresno County, southeast Bakersfield and Arvin in Kern County and Ceres and Turlock in Stanislaus County.

The Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program will work to increase access to healthy foods and promote physical activities in southeast Fresno and Orange Cove, said Genoveva Islas, program director.

She's excited that the grant lets organizations focus on improving the health of the Hispanic community. "As of 2010, half of all Latino children will develop diabetes in their lifetime," she said. "That's a hugely alarming statistic."

Cumbia Bike Ride

When: 9:30 a.m. Oct. 4

Where: Pilibos Soccer Park, 4945 E. Lane Ave.

What: Riders will bike from the park to the McKenzie trail at Kings Canyon and Tulare avenues (about 2.5 miles).

Speakers will provide information on bicycle safety, bike routes in southeast Fresno and proposed transportation projects.

For information contact the Central California Obesity Prevention Program at (559) 498-0870, ext. 105.