Step by Step Approach to Healthier Kentucky Communities
ALBANY, Ky. – When surveyed recently, Kentuckians said exercise was the most important thing they can do to improve their health, but many also said that's a very difficult step to take.
There are efforts under way in several Kentucky communities to help folks do just that, step by step.
Take Albany, a small southern Kentucky town near the Tennessee border, where a myriad of projects is promoting physical activity and healthy eating.
"We have to change a culture,” stresses Paula Little, who chairs the Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition. “We have to convince folks that this is the way, just a little piece at a time.
“And, we have to fit those pieces together into a coherent picture where we're changing the habits that folks have."
Clinton County is using a $400,000 Investing in Kentucky's Future grant, matching half of that money with community funds, to do a variety of things over the next four years.
Projects include nutrition programs in the schools and improving outdoor recreation opportunities in the county park.
Little says the main focus is on the town's young people.
"With the belief that if you can change health habits early that that will then carry on into later life,” she states. “It's much more difficult to change your exercise habits or your eating habits after you get older."
The United Health Foundation's 2015 America's Health Rankings placed Kentucky 46th out of 50 states in the percentage of adults reporting excellent or very good health.
Thus, a sharp focus on healthier communities from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which has awarded seven communities multi-year Investing in Kentucky's Future grants totaling $3 million.
Little says the goal in her community is to make it easier for people to eat better and be physically active.
"More convenient,” she stresses, “that it just becomes a natural part of their life."
A goal that she acknowledges is a long-term project in Clinton County – helped along by what she calls "a healthy dose of education" and policy changes.
For example, shared use agreements have been enacted so the community can use school playgrounds after school hours.