The Marion Public Health (MPH) Department has secured a grant in the amount of 16,250 dollars as an extension of a previous grant from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. MPH will be collaborating with the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD) to continue work toward improving health outcomes of Marion residents including those living with a disability.
MPH has been a leader in tackling many health issues in the Marion Community over the years. That is not new. What is new is the intentional approach of including those with disabilities in the work of MPH and its Creating Healthy Communities Coalition. It has been brought to light that issues surrounding healthy food access plague, not only those in poverty situations in our community but also those with disabilities. Further research has led to work surrounding access to parks, including the Tall Grass Trail, to provide more opportunities for physical activity.
In fact, the statistics surrounding health conditions such as obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and physical inactivity were all close to 15 percent higher for someone who has a disability. MPH used the initial grant funds to expand upon this research and do more work to assist in changing these statistics.
The Health Department found that access to healthy food was a large problem in our community because of lack of transportation, limited finances and proximity to full-service grocery stores. With community inclusion in mind and improving healthy food access as a goal, the original grant money was used to launch a mobile produce market. Distribution sites were selected based on need-limited access/ proximity to healthy foods and to reach those most vulnerable. MPH and MCBDD formed partnerships with Marion City Schools, The Ohio State University at Marion, OhioHealth Marion General Hospital and the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to reach their goal of serving healthy foods to Marion County residents with the most need. The produce pantry is up and running and has served its purpose of removing barriers by taking free food closer to the people who need it. The pantry visits four locations twice per month with boxes of free produce available to income-eligible recipients. One of the sites is located at Marca Industries where those served by MCBDD are able to secure fresh produce filling that void that was found through research.
The Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities also plays a large part in coordinating the food that will be distributed. About a dozen people served by MCBDD are engaged in packing, distribution, record keeping, and other volunteer pantry activities to foster community integration and develop employable skills.
The mobile food pantry is working. Since the inception of the program, the food pantry has served over 6,000 families.
Continuation of the work
With the first grant, preliminary work toward physical activity began. Improvements were made to the Marion Tallgrass Trail, Marion Family YMCA, and the Head Start playground located at the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The improvements created better access for those with disabilities and touched the lives of roughly 50,000 people. A continuation of this work is the future focus.
With the recent funding that was secured by MPH through the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, the work that has begun will continue. Objectives that are set for the new monies are as follows:
- Increase access to physical activity opportunities by implementing one new universal bike share system.
- Increase access to healthy food options by improvements to one raised garden bed, targeting people over 55 years of age and/or those with mobility issues.
- Offer disability awareness training to coalition members and community organizations.
“Marion County is fortunate to have continued funding toward this work,” Erin Creeden, RN, Marion Public Health. “The needs of all people will be considered when planning, implementing and evaluating our work,” she added.
Creeden wrapped up the reward of the work by saying this, “It’s important for a community to establish and maintain an environment where everyone feels welcome, valued, respected and appreciated. That is the focus for the Creating Healthy Communities Coalition in the future.”