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Summary

The University of Georgia was originally awarded a 2-year grant which was then renewed for additional 5 years from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue to assist with prevention efforts to address obesity in Calhoun County. In November of 2016, a county health coalition was created which was called Healthier Together Calhoun. Calhoun County Extension is working with UGA partners to implement community-based strategies to support behavioral and environmental changes for healthy eating and physical activity for children and families. Educational outreach will be conducted through 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences with the help of a current program assistant who is supported by the grant. This community coalition was formed to give input for determining project goals and measuring success. In Phase I of the grant, the initial coalition meetings, facilitated by UGA’s Fanning Institute for Leadership, developed an implementation plan to focus on 3 main goals. From the work with this grant, we were chosen to participate with Well Connected Communities, and received a grant for $500 in Phase I and another $3,400 in Phase II (on-going) to work with the existing coalition to add a Youth-Adult Partnership component to work together to create a healthier community. In addition to this grant, we also received $19,270 from Diverse to build a greenhouse and outdoor classroom learning center. We also applied and received as an additional $500 grant during Phase I, and $400 in Phase II from Wal-Mart which focuses on nutrition education, cooking skills, food budgeting, as well as fitness, and mental health.

Situation

Calhoun County is a rural community covering over 280.7 square miles, and is made up of 4 municipalities. The county has a population of 6,189 (including the prison population of 1,539), and has a per capita income of $24,638. It is a rural community with agriculture, local school systems, county/city government, and a state prison as the main employers for the area. The Centers of Disease Control determined that over 40% of adults located in Calhoun county are obese. Obesity is a serious problem in Georgia that can eventually lead to negative health consequences such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and death.

Response

In order to address obesity in Calhoun County, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded project funds to UGA for fighting obesity in Calhoun County. Calhoun County Extension is working with UGA partners to implement community-based strategies over a two-year period in Phase I and an additional 5 years in Phase II. The coalition is comprised of Family Connection, county and city leaders, educators, local law enforcement, educators, Fire/Rescue, Faith Leaders, health professionals, and concerned citizens. This group of citizens are driven and united in tackling this issue. The initial assessment for Calhoun county (established in Phase I) was as follows: • Over 50% reported that they were never physically active • Over 30% reported they consumed 1 or more servings of sugar sweetened beverages daily • Less than 20% consumed one or more servings of vegetables each day • Less than 30% consumed one or more servings of fruit each day The health coalition took this information to come up with methods of intervention. These members who meet bi-monthly or more as needed in work groups decided on 3 goals for implementing these interventions. The goals established were as follows: • Increase Communication about Health-Related Events and Activities • Increase Access to Healthy Activities • Increase Access to Healthy Food Increase Communication about Health-Related Events and Activities The Calhoun County Extension 4-Agent met with students at the local schools to teach about nutrition and the importance of physical fitness. In Phase I, the Well-Connected Communities Grant led by the local youth Health Ambassadors held a Health Fair to highlight the health statistics of the county and to provide vendors that took blood pressure, gave out healthy recipes, opportunity to make a smoothie riding a bike, and much more. In Phase II due to COVID, the Extension Team worked with the local schools to have some virtual programming to teach the students about nutrition, plants and soil (Nail’d it series), and a few pollinator bed site visits. Information was also shared in Family Connection Newsletters, local newspapers, and Facebook to increase communications about health-related events and activities (total circulation 2,055). Extension placed displays/exhibits at local events such as School supply drives/open house (300 contacts), May Day (75 contacts), King Cotton Horse Show (30 contacts), and other events where information about the grant were given out and everyone was able to participate in activities and games at this display. The Heathier Together Calhoun Facebook Page has been utilized to increase awareness of eating healthy (healthy recipes, etc.) and promoting the importance of being physically fit (exercise tips). Increase Access to Healthy Activities After-school programs were started in the areas of health and fitness. One is at the local recreation building in Arlington, one is taught each week at the Edison Library, and the other is Yoga for Kids which is taught at the local library, during PE, and at the schools (20 contacts). The team has provided water bars and used the smoothie bike at various local events. Summer activities promoted being more physically active. Some type of movements/exercises were incorporated in the club meetings as well as in the after-school programs. Each of the 4 municipalities in Calhoun County are working on planning more activities focused the 4 walking trails throughout the county (One in each of the 4 Municipalities). As a part of Phase II, musical playground equipment has been delivered to the municipalities and will accommodate a diverse group of children. Phase II also includes extra playground equipment, supplies for upkeep and sustainability of the walking trail and sidewalk repair to increase community walkability. Increase Access to Healthy Food Community gardens are going up at various organizations or group sites which will be maintained by volunteers and students (38 raised garden beds). The first community garden was built at the local County Extension Office with the help of Calhoun County Extension, ANR Agents, volunteers from the Tifton Campus and neighboring counties, volunteers from Fort Valley Campus, and several community members. It serves as an opportunity for teachable moments for community members and the area youth. Items that were planted will be shared with those who volunteer in the garden and shut-ins or disable citizens. Two more grants were written through the Diverse Foundation with over $19,270 awarded. This grant provided a greenhouse and outdoor pavilion next to the community gardens provided by Phase I of the CDC Grant, and will be used as an outdoor classroom area for young people and community members. They can gather to germinate seeds then plant them in the many community gardens or at their homes. Since Phase I began there have been 7 garden classes led by the local Ag Agent, and a Junior Chopped Competition where the mystery ingredients were harvested from the community garden. Also, 4-Cancer Prevention Cooking Classes have been taught by Family and Consumer Science Agents from neighboring counties (60 contacts). In Phase I, school Nutrition Directors, a representative from the local farmer’s market, and local retail grocery store owners have met with the Coalition, UGA Grant Team Members, and Family and Consumer Science representatives to discuss ideas and trainings that would assist with increasing the access to healthy foods in their organizations. Funds from the Wal-Mart Grant were used to make healthy fruit bags for the nursing homes, fire/rescue/911, and law enforcement during a multi-county community service project. The CDC Grant has provided 4 Grab-n-Go coolers to area restaurants and grocery stores for healthy options to be displayed, and small shopping carts to assist parents with those teachable moments when shopping with their child. In Phase II, more coolers will be added to several area churches that host local Food Banks, and several garden beds (4) will be added throughout the county.

Impact

Calhoun County citizens have committed to building a strong community coalition to address chronic health concerns by meeting monthly over one year. There have been six new youth and adult prevention programs implemented. In Phase I, eighteen adults were surveyed and over half of them stated that they increased their knowledge about proper nutrition and the importance of regular medical screenings from Cancer Prevention Cooking School. Also, the youth participating in the 4-H fitness Club admitted to increasing physical activity and eating fruits and vegetables as a result of this program. Grab and go coolers were placed in local stores to highlight healthy food choices along with healthy recipes on display that include those fresh fruits and vegetables in the coolers. Walking trails along with workout stations and playground equipment were placed in each municipality in Calhoun County. Also, as a result of a walk audit Calhoun County received “Walk You City” signs to increase community walkability by showing the distance or time it takes to get from one location to another within each municipality. The Coalition in collaboration with the UGA Grant Team, UGA’s Fanning Institute for Leadership (Phase I), ANR, and Family and Consumer Sciences has worked diligently with this community to work towards their goals in order to reduce and prevent obesity and the chronic diseases that accompany it. Participant Comment: “The Healthier Together Calhoun Coalition has worked together with the area youth and community members to make our county a healthier area to live, work, and go to school. We are so grateful for the work that Extension and the Coalition have done.” (Quote made by Coalition Member)

State Issue

Health & Nutrition

Details

  • Year: 2020
  • Geographic Scope: County
  • County: Calhoun
  • Location: College Station, Athens
  • Program Areas:
    • 4-H Youth
    • Family and Consumer Sciences

Author

  • Ashley, Shanda F.

Collaborator(s)

CAES Collaborator(s)

  • Berg, Alison C.
  • Brown, Courtney Still
  • Crosson, David Luke
  • Holmes, Grace
  • Miller, Melinda D.
  • Scarrow, Andrea Lee
  • Williams, Stacey N
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