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HHS Announces $ 103 Million In Community Transformation Grants

The Department of Health and Human Services awarded Tuesday more than $103 million through its Community Transformation Grants program, which was established by the 2010 health law. A total of 61 groups as well as state and local government agencies, spread across 36 states and one territory, will receive funding to promote healthy living and prevention locally over the next five years.

The grants are funded by the law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. President Barack Obama recently proposed cutting $3.5 billion from the fund as part of his deficit reduction plan, leaving $13.8 billion. The fund could be targeted by the ‘super committee’  in its pursuit of savings, and has also been eyed by congressional Republicans.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden said the transformation grants will “do exactly what the name says: change the way communities promote health.” Project managers at the CDC will work with individual grantees now through early 2012 to finalize their plans.

Key focuses include discouraging tobacco use, promoting healthy eating and activity and encouraging preventive medicine. Success will be measured in terms of changes in weight, nutrition, physical activity, tobacco use and emotional well-being, said Ursula Bauer, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Bauer described how the grants fall into two categories: implementation and capacity building. Implementation awards go up to $10 million annually and are being given to 35 awardees that “have a track record of success” and can focus on expanding their projects. The capacity building awards go up to $500,000 annually; the 26 winners “have more limited experience,” Bauer said, and first need to build up their organization and resources for public health projects.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services received a $1.3 million implementation award. John Martins, a spokesman, said this effort will build on existing  initiatives like a tobacco helpline and physical activity program for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Details will now be ironed out with the CDC.

Virginia’s Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services received a nearly $500,000 capacity building award and plans to follow through on recommendations from a local health partnership, said Jesse Ellis, a resource development manager.

Award amounts were based on population size and project scope. HHS estimates that the selected groups, which range from local non-profits to county and state departments of public health, reach 120 million Americans total.

“This is another step in the right direction for building up prevention infrastructure,” said Ken Thorpe, executive director of the non-profit Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. Thorpe said there are “really good ideas” for public health initiatives among the awardees, and he hopes to see those scaled up at both a local and national level.