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Transform Wisconsin Promotes Active Lives, Smoke-free Housing and Healthy Food Systems

Madison, Wisconsin - Home to a renowned Pediatric Fitness Clinic and adjacent to the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, American Family Children's Hospital served as an appropriate announcement platform Tuesday for the Transform Wisconsin Fund, a $6.6 million dollar grant distributed to 30 Wisconsin counties to promote healthy lifestyles, healthy bodies and healthy foods.

"We are very honored and thrilled to host the launch of the Transform Wisconsin initiative to improve the health of Wisconsin," said Nan Peterson, director of Child Health Advocacy at American Family Children's Hospital.

The grants take two forms. Twenty-four of the recipient communities are receiving Impact Grants, which focus on one of three areas: expanding smoke-free environments to include apartment buildings, strengthening farm-to-school programs so Wisconsin students have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, or increasing physical activity for kids by promoting and implementing open gyms between schools and community agencies.

Transform Wisconsin Fund recipients (from left): Nan Peterson, American Family Children's Hospital; Miriam Grunes, REAP Food Group; Laura Conklin, Rock County Health Department; Maureen Cassidy, Midwest Affiliate American Heart AssociationTransform Wisconsin Grants, which were awarded to six communities, will focus on all three of those areas.

"We will transform Wisconsin into a place where our farm-fresh fruits and vegetables are plentiful in our schools," said Maureen Cassidy, vice president of advocacy, Midwest Affiliate American Heart Association. "We will transform Wisconsin into a place with a lot of affordable, safe places for kids and adults to be physically active. And we will transform Wisconsin into a place where all families have the opportunity to live in smoke-free housing."

Peterson, who along with American Family Children's Hospital pediatric endocrinologist David Allen, MD, serves as co-chair of Dane County's Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative, says the Impact Grant her organization received will focus on changing local policies to increase childhood physical activity.

"We're looking big-picture at policies that improve the environment that children are in," she said, and mentioned joint-use agreements as a point of emphasis. "You're able to use a school or community recreation facility in the off hours and have it open for physical activities. One of the first things we want to do is to build partnerships to help those empty buildings be open more."

"We wanted to have American Family Children's Hospital have a leading role in creating a healthier environment for children," added Dr. Allen. "We're working with a variety of energetic people from the community to find ways to make policy real in communities by opening up areas that can be used for promoting physical activity."

Increased physical activity partners comfortably with healthy foods, and Rock County Health Department health educator Laura Conklin said her organization will use its grant to establish channels through which local farmers sell their goods to area schools.

"Farmers get a boost through having schools purchase their fruits and vegetables," she said. "Kids get fruits and vegetables at lunch and during breaks. As far as we know, no other school in Rock County is doing it, so we're excited to start this landmark, innovative new program."

Ryan Sheahan's Tobacco-Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition plans to use its Impact Grant to educate Madison and Fitchburg landlords and property managers on the benefits of 100 percent smoke-free housing. The health benefits of avoiding cigarette and cigar smoke are well-known, but groups like Sheahan's will also emphasize savings in expenses for cleaning and maintenance.

"Our goal is to work with property managers on units and buildings that allow smoking to create smoke-free housing and also work on new units to make them smoke-free off the bat," he said. "We want to educate property managers about the health issues and also about the business side of things."

More information about the Transform Wisconsin Fund is available at www.transformWI.org, including work plans for fund recipients organized by county and volunteer information.

Transform Wisconsin is administered by the Wisconsin Clearinghouse for Prevention Resources through the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). This grant was funded through the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by the Affordable Care Act.


Date Published: 07/24/2012