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$3.6 million federal grant targets obesity prevention, tobacco control in South King County

South King County youth and families in Kent, Auburn, Tukwila, Renton and other communities will soon receive help for obesity prevention and tobacco control because of a $3.6 million grant.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the two-year grant Oct. 1 to Seattle Children’s Hospital, Public Health - Seattle & King County and Healthy King County Coalition to work with youth, families and communities in South Seattle and South King County on obesity prevention and tobacco control, according to a Seattle Children's media release.

Administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the grant program is a comprehensive community health improvement initiative launched in 2011 and funded through the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. The grants help support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending in small communities.

Seattle Children’s and the other groups will work with local governments, schools, hospitals, low-income housing groups, childcare and youth organizations to implement changes in communities that make healthy choices easier for children and families.

Areas of focus include the cities of Auburn, Burien, Des Moines, Kent, North Highline, Renton, SeaTac and Tukwila, and the Seattle neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Georgetown and South Park. This area has a combined population of more than 479,000.

“South Seattle and South King County have a large and growing population of immigrant, ethnic and racial minority populations, are marked by health and social inequities and have burdens of chronic disease significantly higher than the rest of King County,” said Dr. Brian Saelens, health researcher and grant co-lead at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “At the same time, there is high interest and engagement from families, schools, cities, hospitals and others to work together to create sustainable, positive changes to support youth and families in being healthy.

"We expect our collaboration and work will reduce tobacco use and improve weight, nutrition and physical activity, especially among children and families, in these communities.”

The grant will assist communities, institutions, and organizations in preventing obesity and tobacco use in three areas:

Nutrition

Increase availability and promotion of healthful and locally produced food and drinks in schools, hospitals and other public institutions.

Reduce sugary drink consumption through community engagement, increased awareness and decreased availability of sugary drinks in organizations and institutions.

• Physical Activity

Increase physical activity in schools, childcare and after-school programs.

Make communities pedestrian and bicycle-friendly through changes in land use and planning policies.

Improve access to public spaces for active recreation.

• Tobacco

Create more smoke-free parks and public housing.

Overall, Health and Human Services awarded approximately $70 million in prevention grants to 40 awardees focused on improving the health of small communities across the nation.

The Seattle area grant is entitled “Transforming the Health of South King County: Working with small communities to reduce regional health inequities.”

According to King County tobacco and obesity statistics, in 2010, King County students who reported smoking cigarettes in the past 30 days included 4 percent of 8th graders, 9 percent of 10th graders and 15 percent of 12th graders. This translates to at least 10,000 middle and high school cigarette smokers. Youth with the highest cigarette smoking rates are American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino.

One in five youth in King County is overweight or obese. Rates are highest among males, youth of color and those in South King County. The prevalence of obesity puts children at greater risk of being obese as adults and developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses. Adult obesity rates are 21 percent in King County and are estimated at 27 percent in the focus areas.

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