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Raimondo Highlights Innovative New Investments in Community Health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo visited South County Hospital today to highlight innovative new approaches to build healthier communities through local partnerships to prevent chronic diseases, improve birth outcomes, and improve the social and environmental conditions in 11 different regions in Rhode Island.

These regions, termed Health Equity Zones, are the result of new partnerships between the Governor's Office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Rhode Island Department of Health (RI DOH), and 11 organizations in Rhode Island, including South County Health. Funding supports the development of community collaboratives that include municipal leaders, residents, businesses, transportation and community planners, law enforcement, education systems and health systems, among others.

"With our new Health Equity Zones, we are making a commitment to invest in the health of our communities, and we're setting a national model of innovation and collaboration that other states can look to," said Raimondo. "I'm proud that Rhode Island continues to be a leader in driving change that can improve outcomes and lower costs across our healthcare system. Healthy Rhode Islanders make up a healthy workforce and create a healthy economy."

The Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds Health Equity Zone initiative aims to improve the health and well-being of Washington County's residents, beginning with children and families. Currently, members are identifying the low-income areas of the county where residents may be most at risk for poor health outcomes, to talk with residents. Subsequently, the project will expand or roll out several proven, concrete programs, such as:

Launching a "5-2-1-0" campaign to encourage children to get 5 fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, and 0 sugary drinks per day;

Partnering with pediatricians on a Reach Out and Read initiative to encourage children to develop a love for reading at an early age; and

Training educators and people who work with youth to recognize early warning signs of mental health problems.

"Health begins where we live, learn, work, and play," said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. "The Health Equity Zone initiative embodies the Department of Health's deep commitment to giving everyone the chance to achieve their full health potential, regardless of their zip code."

"We are excited to have this opportunity to work together to move the needle on two important issues in our community: childhood obesity and children's mental health," said Susan Orban, Project Director for South County Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds.

South County Health is serving as the administrative home for the community-driven effort in Washington County. Other Health Equity Zone grantees include the City of Providence Healthy Communities Office, Olneyville Housing Corporation, the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet, Thundermist Health Center in Woonsocket, Thundermist Health Center in West Warwick, the North Providence School Department, Women's Resource Center in Newport, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Pawtucket and Central Falls, and the Town of Bristol.

Other strategies that Health Equity Zone organizations are putting in place include diabetes prevention programs, health screenings, nutrition policies in schools and worksites, and revisions to municipal plans.

The total investment in all Health Equity Zone Projects is $2.7 million. Approximately $100,000 is state funding, with the balance coming from the federal government. South County Health is receiving $262,000.

More information about Health Equity Zones can be found online at http://www.health.ri.gov/projects/healthequityzones

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