Nashville has landed $7.5 million to help launch an obesity prevention program, under a federal stimulus initiative kicked off Friday.
As part of President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday awarded 44 communities nationwide a chunk of $373 million to support various public health issues through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant.
Nashville’s allocation, expected to flow in incrementally over the next two years, will support a “multi-faceted obesity prevention campaign,” said Bill Paul, director of the Metro Health Department, which includes a media blitz to promote active living, healthy eating and public transportation.
“We’re very excited about contributing significantly to making Nashville a healthier and more livable place over the next couple of years,” Paul said. “We’re very focused on having a lasting impact even though we know these funds are not long-term.”
More than 400 communities applied for the grant dollars. Nashville originally sought $10 million, but in the end will receive $7.5 million. The program, carried about by Metro government and various community health partners, is expected to generate 40 full-time positions and 40 part-time jobs.
Mayor Karl Dean and others are expected to hold a news conference on the grant next week.
Other components of the still-evolving campaign are geared to promote nutrition. One measure aims to bring more urban gardens to Nashville, while another seeks to make fresh, healthy produce and food more readily available in all parts of town.
Consistently, Tennessee has among the highest obesity rates in the nation, a trend that’s found in Nashville as well.
“(Nashville) has seen increases in overweight and obesity, year after year, for the last 20 years, with virtually no end in sight,” Paul said. “We’ve had very little in the way of resources to kind of aim at proven strategies to reduce that problem.”