Friday, June 03, 2016

Small, rural county works to improve its children's health and thus change local health culture

Public officials and local leaders in a small, rural county in Southern Kentucky that ranks near the bottom of the state's County Health Rankings have formed a coalition to improve the health of its community, with a focus on its children.

Clinton County (Wikipedia map) ranked 102nd out of 120 Kentucky counties in the 2016 County Health Rankings. “We recognize that, we saw that in our kids,” Lora Brewington, chief compliance officer of Cumberland Family Medical Center Inc., told Kentucky Educational Television in a special about the coalition.“And if we don’t change something now, we’re going to be going to the funeral home for kids a lot younger.”

So, with the help of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky they formed the Clinton County Healthy Hometown Coalition to implement a multi-faceted public health program for the community's citizens, that focuses on its children. The coalition recognized that most of the county's health issues stemmed from obesity.

"So we feel like if we can start young and start with our children and teach them healthy habits and healthy lifestyles that when they grow up they won't be faced with obesity and all of those chronic diseases that go with it," Paula Little, assistant superintendent of the Clinton County School District said.

Many of the coalition’s activities are school-based. Teachers have incorporated physical activity into the school day as well as during their morning routines and after-school day care programs; schools have improved their menus to include fruits and vegetables with every meal; schools now offer supper to its students during the school year; and the community now offers breakfast and lunch to low-income children in the summer on a retrofitted school bus called the Bus Stop Café.

The Healthy Hometown Coalition also implemented school-based health clinics, which provides a full range of healthcare services for children while they are at school. The clinics also provide body mass index (BMI) assessments and provide nutrition and obesity counseling.

In addition, Clinton County schools implemented a comprehensive smoke-free policy that will go into effect July 2016.

A full-time coordinator, April Speck, manages the various coalition programs and writes a weekly health column in the local news paper. The coalition sponsors community events, and has built a new playground.

“What makes me feel good about it is that I know there’s a real need here,” Speck said.“There’s a lot of kids who have childhood obesity... And just seeing them start to make changes in what they are doing, how much they are eating, their water intake, I know that we’re making an improvement.”

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