GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - The Garfield County HEAL coalition recently got a $40,000 jump-start in its efforts to prevent obesity and promote healthy living in the county.
The grant came from LiveWell Colorado, a Denver-based nonprofit that works with communities throughout the state to implement obesity-reduction plans.
HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) consists of local representatives from the medical, public health, education and nonprofit communities.
Over the next year, the group will use the $40,000 to identify the largest barriers to healthy eating and exercise for Garfield County residents. Those findings, in turn, will inform an action plan geared toward reducing local obesity rates.
"We'll ask participants for their own definition of what it means to eat healthy, and what their largest barriers are to eating well and exercising," said Christine Singleton, director of nutrition services for Garfield County Public Health.
Singleton noted that the project would focus on low-income residents in particular, and that researchers plan to engage with those already enrolled in federal food aid programs like food stamps or free and reduced lunch programs.
With the grant, Garfield County officially becomes a "LiveWell Community," and gains access to a stream of funding for obesity reduction efforts that could last for as long as nine years.
"This funding is awarded to communities that have solid plans to affect positive change through strategic education and action," said Maren Stewart, president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado, in a press release.
County officials said they were eager to start work drafting an action plan.
"We will be bringing everyone together, to survey our community and citizens so that we can see what their concerns are," said Mary Meisner, director of Garfield County Public Health.
Meisner said members of the HEAL Coalition were scheduled to meet soon with representatives of LiveWell Colorado to begin a formal examination of the county's obesity-related challenges.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 58 percent of Colorado adults and around 25 percent of Colorado children are overweight or obese.
"If trends continue, only 33 percent of Colorado adults will be a healthy weight by 2020," states the LiveWell Colorado press release.
LiveWell Colorado's primary donors are the Colorado Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.