September 13, 2007

Grant funds health care initiatives for children

by Christi Mathis


CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development will use a recently awarded federal grant to help improve the health of children and adolescents in the region.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, announced the $428,560 grant from the Health Administration Division of Grants Management Operations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The center will work with several other Southern Illinois agencies, using funds from the Delta State Rural Development Network Grant Program. The grant, renewable for two more years pending federal funding, will provide school-based programming in a 16-county region of Southern Illinois.

"SIU is taking a leadership role in the Delta region by working with other schools and economic development organizations to improve the lives of the people that live there," Costello said.

"We're very excited about the continued funding of our work in the Illinois Delta Region," said Tess D. Ford, director of the center. "It's great for Southern Illinois."

"The goal is to improve the health status of children and adolescents in the areas of physical activity and nutrition in an effort to improve their health status and prevent and reduce the overweight and obesity problems," Ford said.

Ford is the project director and James A. Teufel is the project evaluator and grant-writer. The center is the designated grantee for Illinois, one of eight states that make up the Delta Region. The SIUC center received grant funding each of the last six years and previously used the funds for a variety of programs to improve access to health for people in the region. Working with 14 sub-contractors, it initiated or assisted with school-based health centers, supported living programs, emergency medical services and healthy communities coalitions.

With the current round of funding, the focus will narrow to target regional needs as determined by earlier needs assessments. The funding will allow for the expansion of physical activity and nutrition programs, according to Ford. The "Coordinated Approach to Child Health" (CATCH) addresses these areas of need. Ford said all 105 elementary schools in the Illinois Delta Region will be eligible to participate in CATCH and it's expected 29 will do so by the end of the grant-funding period in 2010.

"CATCH" is a nationally recognized school program that worked well locally in its pilot stage, Ford said. The environment and physical activity of local school children has already improved courtesy of the community-based CATCH approach. Now, it's expanding through a new model, "Catch on to Health", to 13 rural Southern Illinois schools this year. The center will work through the regional offices of education to recruit additional schools.

"Color Me Healthy" is another component of the funded program. It's aimed at preschool children and already used in some Head Start programs. The Child Care Resource and Referral Center at John A. Logan College in Carterville will implement "Color Me Healthy" in local Head Start programs, Ford said.

The Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development will work with Southern Illinois Healthcare, the Southern Seven Health Department and the Egyptian Public and Mental Health Department, partnering as the Illinois "Catch on to Health" Consortium. The Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development, located at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center at SIUC, is also one of five applicants to get a supplemental Innovation Grant.

Working with Shawnee Health Services, the center will use the $100,000 grant to alleviate a substantial problem. Ford said there are limited specialized mental health services for children in the region, so the grant will be a major boost for these services.

Ford said the majority of the base and supplemental grant funding actually goes to community sub-contractors to provide the much-needed services.

"It's really the University reaching out to the community through community outreach and community development initiatives," Ford said.

Illinois counties within the Mississippi Delta Region include Alexander, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union, White and Williamson. The center's primary role is developing, coordinating and evaluating the project and providing training and technical support.