Foundation’s $3 million program helps seven counties become healthier, independent evaluation says

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A five-year, $3 million Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky initiative focused on children’s health is helping change community policies and environments, improve physical activity and nutrition, and strengthen health coalitions in seven Kentucky communities.

The grants are also providing useful lessons for place-based grant-makers, according to an independent evaluation released by the Foundation Tuesday.

The Foundation’s “Investing in Kentucky’s Future” (IKF) initiative, aimed at reducing the risk that today’s school-aged children will develop chronic disease later in life, has funded matching grants for community health coalitions in Breathitt, Clinton, Grant, Jefferson, McCracken, McLean, and Perry Counties.

The Foundation’s “Investing in Kentucky’s Future” (IKF) initiative, aimed at reducing the risk that today’s school-aged children will develop chronic disease later in life, has funded matching grants for community health coalitions in Breathitt, Clinton, Grant, Jefferson, McCracken, McLean, and Perry Counties

All but Jefferson are focused on preventing and reducing childhood obesity. The Louisville coalition is working to foster resiliency in children facing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), traumatic events and other experiences that can lead to toxic stress in childhood and chronic health conditions in adulthood.

“The real value of the Investing in Kentucky’s Future initiative is that it’s fostering the ability of these seven Kentucky communities to keep improving their residents’ health long after the grant period ends,” said Charlie Ross, chair of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Yes, the grants have helped build some beautiful walking trails and playgrounds and ensure healthier foods at park concessions, but they’ve also created lasting partnerships, changed school and community policies, and developed the skills of a cross-sector coalition of people committed to making a healthier future for their children.”

The evaluation, conducted by the Center for Community Health and Evaluation, a research center of the Kaiser Permanent Washington Health Research Institute, listed five lessons from the IKF initiative:

  1. Community-Driven Grant Approach: Allowing community health coalitions to study and determine their own health priorities and the solutions they would employ is leading to greater grantee engagement, but also to more diverse strategies.
  2. Coalition Approach: Requiring grantees to use or create a coalition of partners from a variety of sectors is helping build community support for the work. School engagement has been particularly important for the IKF initiative, which focuses on school-aged children.
  3. Including a Planning Phase to Promote Equity: Recognizing that communities have various levels of ability to compete for and implement grant programs, the Foundation decided to include funding in the grant program for a required a planning phase during which grantees would develop a structured business plan to address their selected health issue. The planning phase made the grant more accessible to communities with fewer resources.
  4. Sustainability Elements: Grant requirements focused on sustainability ─ including a 50 percent cash match, the planning phase, a focus on changing policies in the community, and an evaluation component ─ have given coalition members the skills and experience that will help them continue to improve the health of their communities in the future.
  5. Shorter-Term Evaluation Measures: The Foundation recognized that significant changes in complex health issues take more than five years to see. Thus, the Foundation focused its evaluation on shorter-term changes that have been proven to lead to longer-term health improvements.

The Foundation’s IKF grantees are: Partnership for a Healthy McLean County, Purchase Area Connections for Health (McCracken County), Fitness for Life Around Grant County, Breathitt County Health Planning Council for Children, Perry County Wellness Coalition, Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition, and the Bounce Coalition (Jefferson County).

The IKF initiative is entering its fourth year, although some communities’ grants will extend into 2019 as they got started later in the initiative. A copy of the evaluation, “Toward a Healthier Kentucky: Lesson Learned from Evaluating Place-Based Community Health Improvement,” is available here. An interim evaluation report on the initiative, released in August 2016, is available here.

From Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky Communications

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