By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Members of the Healthy Rowan coalition say a recent $50,000 award to the city will help expand and promote lifestyle education initiatives to the area’s youth and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Mayor Karen Alexander received the grant on the city of Salisbury’s behalf last week during the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors. Called the 2022 Childhood Obesity Prevention and Environmental Health and Sustainability Award, it comes from a partnership between the U.S. Congress of Mayors and the American Beverage Foundation for a Healthy America. Salisbury was one of nine cities across the nation to receive an award. Other cities of comparable size included Daytona Beach in Florida and White Plains in New York.
Jennifer West, who leads the lifestyle medication initiative with Healthy Rowan, said funding will help broaden the county’s collaborative work to apply her focus area. Lifestyle medicine uses evidence-based therapeutic approaches to prevent, treat and reverse chronic diseases by focusing on individual behaviors such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress and substance use.
She cited a pilot program through the county’s Community Care Clinic to put into practice the national “5-2-1-0” public awareness campaign. Using that model, providers “prescribe” five fruits and vegetables each day, the limiting of screen time to no more than two hours a day, physical activity for at least one hour a day and avoidance of sugary drinks. West said the measures allow providers to establish partnerships with their patients and coach them rather than outright stating what they should or shouldn’t do.
That program currently serves adults. With the grant, efforts will be extended to the area’s youth.
West said lifestyle medicine isn’t often taught in the typical medical school curriculum. The grant will allow providers who work with entities partnered with Healthy Rowan to undergo educational training about lifestyle medicine. She added that up to 80% of chronic illnesses can be prevented through healthier lifestyles.
Both Salisbury Pediatrics and the Rowan County Health Department will primarily carry out the program.
Additionally, the funding will help cover some of the membership costs for families when they’re referred to the YMCA as well as a soon-to-be-launched educational initiative with N.C. Cooperative Extension in Rowan County to address food insecurity.
Healthy Rowan Program Manager Courtney Meece told the Post the grant came at “the perfect timing” as both Alexander and Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris approached Meece and West about this grant opportunity late last year and “knew this was immediately something we had to go for.”
“Jenn and I worked alongside Vera Avery, the Rowan County Health Department’s quality improvement specialist, to put together this proposal and honestly, it was like assembling the dream team,” Meece said. “I have to really give credit to Jenn and Vera on securing this funding, it was truly a group effort.”
Particularly as a parent, West said she appreciates the opportunity for providers to share education about healthy lifestyles with patients before future concerns may arise. Oftentimes, patients and providers aren’t aware of all available resources so the funding will help “improve the connection of community and clinical services.”
“Everyone deserves this kind of information but not everyone gets it,” West said.
Alexander said it’s particularly appealing that the Healthy Rowan coalition is family-oriented.
“These children may one day be teachers, first responders, business owners, or even the future elected officials here in Salisbury and I believe we owe it to them to give them all the tools they need to live their healthiest life,” Meece said. “And with this award we can help do that.”
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.