$1 million health grant targets South County

Dozens of community-based and local nonprofit organizations stand to gain from a recent $1 million federal grant awarded to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department by the Centers for Disease Control.
On Oct. 16, county health officials announced they are rolling out a special project designed to benefit 93,000 people living in the areas of Gilroy, Morgan Hill and unincorporated San Martin.
Coined “South County: United for Health,” the grant initiative emphasizes the implementation of long-lasting solutions to address health disparities and improve health outcomes among low-income and Latino residents.
In 2009, about 19 percent of Gilroyans ages 64 and younger reported that they do not have any healthcare insurance compared to 21 percent in the county and 20 percent in California, according to the 2010 Santa Clara County Health Profile Report.
At 59 percent, Gilroy has a significantly larger Hispanic population than the county (26 percent) and California (37 percent).
“We like to focus on those parts of our community that are the most at risk for being unhealthy,” said health department spokeswoman Joy Alexiou. “The grant makes it possible for us to increase physical activity, nutrition and wellness education.”
A bidding process will open up in the near future, allowing community organizations and even the cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill to submit a proposal for the funding of their programs.
There’s certainly no shortage of groups that stand out as potential candidates.
Saint Joseph’s Family Center, Gilroy’s growing YMCA branch, the City of Gilory’s recreation department, Community Solutions, Saint Louise Regional Hospital, GUSD’s physical education program and the Gilroy Compassion Center are but a mere fraction of groups that play a role in bolstering community wellness.
“I’m definitely going to take a look at it,” said Board Director Jan Bernstein-Chargin with the Gilroy Compassion Center, a burgeoning homeless shelter striving to eventually stay open nights and year-round.
Grants Administrator Lynn Magruder with Community Solutions, a leading South County social services agency, also noted interest in partnering with the Department of Health when Request for Funding Proposals are made available for the new grant.
Health Department spokeswoman Alexiou says the process will gain steam in the coming months. There is no start date yet for when organizations will be able to throw their hats in the ring for funding consideration, but alerts will be sent out when the Request for Funding Proposal is issued by the Health Department. Organizations wishing to be notified should sign up on the county’s website under “doing business with the county.”
The $1,027,931 federally funded award comes from the Centers for Disease Control Community Transformation Grant.
“South County: United for Health” project goals include enhancing tobacco use prevention and cessation at various high schools, helping create smoke-free housing units, improving screening procedures for tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure, enhancing clinical practices that will increase breastfeeding, creating safe parks for active recreation and boosting social-emotional health resources for students.
The importance of good nutrition and nipping obesity in the bud are also major components outlined in the grant.
According to the 2010 Santa Clara County Health Profile Report, 66 percent of Gilroy adults are overweight or obese, and report higher rates of asthma, smoking, binge drinking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol than the county population as a whole. More adults in Gilroy (52 percent) reported not performing any vigorous physical activity than adults in the county (46 percent).
It’s not just adults who are struggling, either. The Gilroy Unified School District has the highest amount of overweight/obese high school students in the county (more than 24 percent), according to the 2011 Health and Social Inequities report for Santa Clara County.
Students in the Morgan Hill Unified School District have a moderate obesity risk of 17 to 24 percent.
“This grant….will really make a difference in the current and future health of South County residents,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, Chair of the Board’s Health and Hospital Committee. “We are fortunate in Santa Clara County to have a Public Health Department that continues to seek innovative ways to fund such vital education and services in our community.”

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