The Johnston County Public Health Department is working on plans to implement initiatives that will make healthy living easier.
County commissioners approved Johnston as the lead county in health department region 7 to orchestrate the Community Transformation Project, a 5-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control to improve healthy living efforts in North Carolina. Now, the health department is assessing needs in the region’s eight counties and looking to establish partnerships to accomplish the project’s goals.
The goal is to implement initiatives to prevent chronic disease, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities, and control health care spending.
With $420,000 in grant money to spend each year for five years, the health department is working to establish ways to promote tobacco-free living, healthy eating and active living. Right now, the health department is working on assessing the status of no-smoking laws, farmers’ markets and recreational opportunities in the eight counties under its lead, which include Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Nash, Warren, Wilson and Vance.
“We’re looking at assessments and data to see what needs there are in the counties and what kind of policies are already in place,” said Dr. Marilyn Pearson, the director of Johnston County Public Health.
Once the counties’ needs are analyzed, the department will submit an implementation plan to the North Carolina Division of Public Health for approval and begin moving forward with its projects.
For example, the department could work with communities that don’t have farmers’ markets or mobile produce stands to bring those healthy eating options to the community. They’ll also work with town councils to implement smoking bans in places like public parks and public buildings.
Another part of the project is to partner with parks and recreation departments to expand the use of community centers for exercise as well as health classes.
For example, the Clayton Parks and Recreation department could promote its community garden class at the health department to meet the healthy eating goal, and the health department could use facilities at the Clayton Community Center to teach parenting and smoking cessation classes.
Matt Lorion, the program coordinator at Clayton Parks and Recreation, is involved with the Community Transformation Project as a potential partner through Clayton parks and rec.
He said one of his ideas is to make the Community Center available to people who visit the health department and are told they need to lose weight or lower their blood pressure.
“If you got a note from the Johnston County health department that you need to walk, let them get into the center to walk or use cardio equipment, and use the center itself as a way to get some of these people in,” Lorion said.
Pearson said the goal isn’t just to partner with parks and rec departments, but also with schools and other centers that might be able to offer spaces for physical fitness.
“We are working with organizations to try and promote joint use and community use of facilities, so that’s where our parks and rec departments are involved with us,” Pearson said. “We’re also trying to work with schools. Any group that has open space and walking trails, that type of thing. where we can work together to allow the community to use those spaces to increase their activity levels.”