RMH Community Health
and the Healthy Community Council (HCC) Obesity Action Team were recently awarded a two-year, $73,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY).
The grant money will be used to implement Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs at Harrisonburg City and Rockingham County schools. SRTS is an evidence-based program established to reduce and prevent childhood obesity. Schools participating in the SRTS program encourage students to walk or bike to school by building sidewalks, bike paths and other pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.
In the 2011 HCC assessment survey, members of the Harrisonburg and Rockingham communities identified obesity as a primary concern for the area. Through the VFHY grant, RMH and the HCC Obesity Action Team will organize travel plans for each school that has completed SRTS infrastructure improvements or received an SRTS infrastructure grant.
“This grant will allow us to form walking school bus and bike train programs for area students,” said Katie Montgomery, RMH Community Health manager. “Children need to learn healthy habits, such as walking to school, early in life. Our hope is these programs will help decrease dangerous childhood obesity in the future.”
Currently, two Harrisonburg City and two Rockingham County elementary schools have completed, or are completing, SRTS infrastructure plans. Two new schools will be assisted in applying for SRTS infrastructure grants, Montgomery said.
The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, formerly known as the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Fund, also provides funding for the Towards No Tobacco Use (TNT) program used in Harrisonburg, Rockingham and Augusta. Ron Cople, a respiratory therapist with RMH Pulmonary Services
and a health educator with RMH Community Health, has been conducting these classes at local middle schools for the past five years.