California receives $22 million in community transformation grants, Merced County to benefit

09/27/2011 4:30 PM

09/27/2011 4:37 PM

We can expect a healthier California.

More than $103 million in federal funds was awarded Tuesday as part of a new initiative to help improve communities and combat chronic diseases nationwide.

California’s slice of the pie will be $22 million – and some of those funds will trickle down to Merced County.

“We can assure that California will put this money to really good use,” Diana Dooley, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The Community Transformation Grants were born out of the new federal Affordable Care Act. Sixty-one states and communities will benefit from the funds, which were announced early Tuesday morning by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

About 75 percent of health care costs in the United States can be attributed to chronic diseases, according to a news release from the federal health agency. The grants will help improve the health of communities with preventive programs that have shown positive outcomes.

Mary Pittman, president and CEO of the Public Health Institute, said a total of 214 applications were submitted--and only a 30 percent of them were funded. California will be able to make further progress in the work that’s already established through different partnerships.

The Public health Institute’s grant focuses on all 42 California counties with populations under 500,000. Of those 42, 12 of them are considered “intensive interventions,” which will receive the greatest support, and one of them is Merced County, according to Matthew Kagan, with The Endowment.

“We are in the midst of an extremely difficult economic time and it’s truly inspiring to receive these grants,” Ronald Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said during the conference. “Poverty rates are the highest we have seen in two decades. These grants bring hope.”

With various partnerships, the state can change community behaviors and achieve the critical work that’s needed to reduce the rates of chronic diseases and prevent death, he said.

Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, said during the conference that he was thrilled with the news of the funds coming to the state. It’s a great opportunity for the state in terms of prevention and healthy living, he said.

The Endowment is already engaged in similar work in 14 communities across the state, including Merced County. Earlier this year, the county received $1.4 million as part of the Endowment’s 10-year initiative that’s meant to help bring healthier lives in some of the most underserved communities in the state.

For more information, visit http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/09/community09272011a.html . Stay tune as I will be reporting on the progress of the work that will be done in Merced County.

Yesenia Amaro, health care reporter

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