The Tanner grant is part of $70 million awarded to 40 community non-profit programs by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its Small Communities Program to expand clinical and preventive services, affecting about 9.2 million Americans. Tanner was the only Georgia program and only one of eight hospital systems in the country to receive the grant.
Loy Howard, Tanner Health System president and CEO, said the funds will be used to support efforts to reduce obesity, improve nutritional awareness, increase physical activity, reduce tobacco usage and improve the emotional well-being in the three counties.
“This is the largest grant in our history,” Howard said. “The significance of this grant is that it’s the beginning steps of Tanner starting to transform its mission. Since its beginning, Tanner has been centered on taking care of people who are sick or having babies. Like most healthcare systems, we have not done in a lot in the area of wellness, specifically addressing chronic diseases, because of the reimbursement system. We realize we’re going to have to help our citizens earlier in their healthcare situations.”
Tanner earlier this year, approved a five-year strategic plan, which includes development of a new community health division of Tanner Health System to focus on prevention, wellness, chronic disease management and early intervention efforts. This new division will be led by Denise Taylor, senior vice president and chief community health strategy and brand officer.
“Our communities in West Georgia are suffering from significant health issues that are literally cutting lives short,” Taylor said. “Chronic disease, tobacco use, poor nutrition and lack of exercise are taking a tremendous toll on our region. These funds will go a long way to help us bring a message of health and hope to our neighbors in Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties. Tanner will be putting its resources directly where our residents live, work, learn and play, providing education, services and practical tools to help residents build healthier lifestyles.”
Taylor said programs funded by this new grant will add to the community health emphasis already started with Tanner’s Get Healthy West Georgia initiative launched earlier this year, funded by a Community Foundation of West Georgia grant and private donors.
She said in less than six months, that program has enrolled more than 1,200 community members who are now actively engaged in improving their lifestyles through diet and exercise.
She said the CDC funds will be used in 14 different initiatives in areas of tobacco cessation, active living, healthy eating, preventive services and emotional well being.
“We’ll be doing things like building community gardens and going into childcare centers, helping them teach children about healthy eating,” she said. “We’ll also develop programs for school systems to talk about not smoking or chewing tobacco, how to eat healthier and have more active lives.”
She said there will also be community marketing campaigns on healthy living and work with farmers and restaurants to teach people how to buy and prepare healthy food.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and state health officer, was on hand Friday afternoon for Tanner’s grant announcement.
“The purpose of this grant is to work to reduce crises and get some preventive strategies in place to help us have a healthy community,” Fitzgerald said. “In the end, that will help reduce rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke, and also help with the obesity issue that’s going across America right now. If we’re going to live our normal life span, we have to make choices. We have to eat better, move more and don’t smoke.
“I’m enormously pleased and proud of Tanner Health System for being the only one in the state to receive this grant,” she said. “And certainly, Public Health wrote a letter of endorsement for this grant and we supported Tanner’s application. We’re dedicated on being a partner with Tanner in this and we certainly have data we can share and an epidemiologist to help analyze things.”
More information about Tanner Health System and future updates on how the Community Transformation Grant is being used is available online at www.tanner.org.