CARBONDALE – As the only statewide elected official from Southern Illinois and the chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is urging rural communities to apply for grants from a new public health program before the end of the week.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is making $3.3 million available through the We Choose Health program to communities across the state. Grants will be given to projects that expand access to healthy foods, increase nutrition and physical activity in communities, promote bike- and pedestrian-friendly travel and create smoke-free environments. At least 35 percent of funds must go to applicants in rural communities.
Eligible applicants include local health departments and other government bodies, educational organizations such as colleges and school districts, hospitals and other health care providers, and community-based organizations such as non-profits and volunteer organizations located in rural and suburban counties excluding Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will County. Applicants must submit a letter of intent by May 18 with complete proposals due by June 15.
“I urge rural communities across the state to take advantage of these federal dollars,” said Simon. “A healthier state will help improve the quality of life in rural Illinois and lower healthcare costs.”
Simon, as chair of the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, has advocated for expanded use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at farmers markets as a way to increase access to local foods and promote healthier eating and lifestyles. IDPH is represented on the council.
According to the IDPH, within the counties eligible to receive funding, less than a fifth of high school students report eating five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day, nearly two-thirds of adults and more than half of adolescents do not meet recommended physical activity guidelines, and 22 percent of adults and 19.2 percent of adolescents smoke.
Applicants must choose to implement at least two of eight We Choose Health strategies, which include coordinated school health, baby-friendly hospitals, worksite wellness, smoke-free multi-unit housing, smoke-free public places, safe routes to school, street planning models that accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and joint-use agreements.
“Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are leading causes of death, disability and rising health care costs,” said IDPH Acting Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck. “But this is not something the health department, community organizations or health care can solve on its own. Similar to the proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, it will take all of us working together to reduce chronic diseases and help people live longer, healthier lives.”
The Community Transformation Grant (CTG), funded from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides IDPH with $4.8 million a year. As part of its CTG, IDPH developed We Choose Health, a sub-award program to fund organizations and coalitions working on chronic disease prevention at the local level. Organizations can apply for a grant of up to $300,000 per year for a period of a little more than four years. Organizations interested in applying should visit www.wechoosehealth.illinois.gov.