Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. American Heart Month, observed in February, provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of heart problems, and to promote healthy behaviors to prevent and reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders. Typically, public health officials point to three major behavior changes that can reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases: eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and quitting smoking. However, in public health, we also know that there can be barriers to access healthy foods and finding opportunities for physical activity opportunities. For many of our neighbors, eating healthy and exercising regularly is easier said than done.
At Live Well Allegheny, we work to ensure that all Allegheny County residents can lead healthy lives. In December 2018, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) wrapped up a multi-year funding opportunity from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to enhance the strategy of Live Well Allegheny and improve health across the county. Live Well Allegheny was expanded through strategic partnerships with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Just Harvest, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED), and RAND Health to increase access to healthy food options and physical activity opportunities, and survey health behaviors with the goal of improving overall health of county residents.
The success of the Richard King Mellon Foundation project led to a new funding opportunity to expand the work with a focus on health equity. In September 2018, ACHD was awarded a five-year national grant, Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), from the CDC. The new project aims to enhance health equity in Allegheny County by addressing chronic disease risk factors in African American/Black populations living in six high-risk target communities. The new funding will allow ACHD to continue to address healthy equity and chronic disease risk factors by collaborating with community-based organizations. ACHD looks forward to another five years of prioritizing equitable access to health to ensure that all our residents can lead long, healthy lives.