Healthier environments produce healthier people. And healthier people produce greater economic outputs, consume fewer healthcare resources and lead better, longer lives. Arkansas Coalition on Obesity Prevention (ArCOP) is focusing on making the healthy choice the easy choice. The coalition’s mission is to improve the health of all Arkansas communities by increasing access to physical activity and healthy eating to reduce and prevent obesity. Growing Healthy Communities (GHC), the Coalition’s primary project, brings together individuals, companies and organizations across sector lines to recognize that a healthy community is a better community on virtually every measure of success.
On Thursday, November 30th the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention (ArCOP) hosted their 10-year anniversary event at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock. The celebration focused on the past decade of partnerships to build healthy communities in Arkansas. ArCOP’s work spans the state with an all-time high of 117 Growing Healthy Communities. This year, 132 project grants were awarded to communities for activities that support policy, system and environmental changes to improve health. In addition, ArCOP awarded 14 Farmers Markets and 4 grocery stores with grants to initiate Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program for SNAP beneficiaries, which included Howard County Farmers’ Market. During their five regional summits they awarded mini-grants to 18 Farmers’ Markets, 49 community and school gardens including “The Garden Lab” at Nashville Elementary School, 22 built environment and 25 worksite wellness projects, with Nashville Elementary School being one of the grantees, to make healthy changes for their communities.
Each year communities submit an application to be awarded with specific GHC recognition levels; Emerging, Blossoming, or Thriving. The “Thriving” designation is ArCOP’s “gold standard” in Growing Healthy Communities and is intended to recognize communities that see the “bigger picture” and are actively making measurable change. These communities have set out to get healthier—economically, policy-wise, nutritionally and physically. Nashville is one of the 13 communities across the state that was awarded the “Thriving” status and the only Thriving Community in SW Arkansas. Criteria for Thriving Status is listed below:
- Provide a checklist of community highlights.
- Strategize plans for change.
- Document successes & lessons learned.
- Demonstrate change through data.
- Demonstrate environmental- and policy-level change.
In each Growing Healthy Community, there is an organized, multidisciplinary team working actively to drive health forward. Nashville’s Growing Healthy Community is an initiative of the Howard County Health Improvement Coalition. The goal of the HCHI Coalition is to work in partnership with local agencies, organizations and businesses to improve the health in Howard County.