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Cabarrus Magazine

Cabarrus Health Alliance Uses REACH Grant to Build Healthier Community

Dec 18, 2018 10:08PM ● By Melanie Heisinger
The Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA) received a REACH grant four years ago, and successful systems of encouraging a healthier lifestyle for disadvantaged communities have been put into place. The REACH grant, Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health, was awarded to the CHA by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The goal of the program is to work with Hispanic and and African American communities in bringing healthier options to their day-to-day life. Part of this initiative started with targeting local corner stores and stocking them with healthy food, as well as making school playgrounds more accessible to the public. 

"Overall, the response we've had is positive," Alicia McDaniel, a CHA representative, told us of the initiative. "This is the first grant on policy systems and environmental change."

CHA, one of 49 REACH recipients nationwide, worked within the communities to build solid relationships, in the hopes of encouraging sustainable change. Getting people excited and invested in the projects was key to the success of the program. 

"I still see REACH as a catalyst to be able to move our county in the right way," McDaniel said. "It's been a success because of our partners."

Healthy Cabarrus has been the forefront of the direction CHA decided to take in regards to healthy change. 

"I think, because partners were involved, implementing initiatives in their own setting, this isn’t just a one time initiative," Marcella Beam, Chief Community Health Officer for CHA, said. "It became part of [people's] daily routine. When we think about overall wellness, with focuses on different populations within the community, we are giving people strategies to live healthier." 

One of the biggest changes that was made involved local parks. It was noted that Spanish-speaking individuals were limited when it came to fitness classes. Most were in English, so one of the first things that shifted were to provide more classes in Spanish. Now, there are classes across the county. Because of REACH, the parks department has resources to hire more bilingual staff. 

"We are a place that not only consists of diversity, but we embrace and celebrate it," McDaniel told us. 

The Kannapolis school district adopted an open-use policy which allowed community access to the outdoor facilities. 

McDaniel and Beam, among many others, noticed an excitement in the community for their efforts. Because of this excitement, the open-use policy was able to expand to the use of school fields and tracks, as well as build new ones. 

"Each year of the grant, we always did a summit on a specific topic," Beam said. "One year was "Walkable Cabarrus", which had so many of the same managers from previous years, elected officials, administration, and school systems -- all the players who have a big hand in impacting the lives of people every day talking about how to make Cabarrus more walkable."

This grant is all about environmental change, encouraging how things operate within the community, to help people live a healthier lifestyle. 

"The environment has changed," Beam told us. "Now people forever have access to something that will improve their health."

To learn more about what the Cabarrus Health Alliance does, you can visit their website

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