Amelia Holliday—Staff Reporter
HAZARD—It was announced last week that the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky’s Perry County Wellness Coalition was chosen as one of seven grant recipients for the Investing in Kentucky’s Future (IKF) initiative. At the coalition’s board meeting Friday, a wellness coordinator was chosen to head the initiative.
Allison Tse, former AmeriCorps VISTA for the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, was chosen for the position after multiple applicants were interviewed. Tse will oversee all aspects of the grant project for the next year and got the ball rolling as soon as the board’s meeting was over because she said the group may have started a little late.
“We’re not behind, we’re building momentum,” Tse said.
The initial project grant is for just over $32,000, and is meant to help the groups begin data collection for their project, which, for those working on the project in the coalition, means any and all previously recorded and collected data concerning the health and wellness of children five years and older in Perry County.
Tse said after the data collection is finished, which is a huge undertaking for the group, brainstorming will begin to identify the core issues the coalition wants to focus on and solutions to these issues to improve the health of the community.
“There have been lots of studies and there are lots of groups and institutions working on children’s health and they are full of information, but they’re all in their own little buildings. We’re just trying to pull it all together and then figure out … truly what are the problems,” she said.
Tse said the main objective for the group is to not just change statistics but to change the culture as a whole in order to sustain healthy living in the area.
“Children’s health really is where it all starts,” she said.
Les Roll, a Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) representative in the coalition, said the project is also an opportunity to really test the coalition.
“This is the first opportunity we’ll have had as a coalition to come together and work as a unit on something affecting the comprehensive health of the community,” Roll said.
Roll said the coalition is made up of organizations and individuals from across the community, from health organizations, to businesses, to individuals in the community, all of whom have a vested interest in the health of their community.
“It’s an opportunity to everyone who’s invested in health and wellness and any aspect of that, at any point in that range, to come together and participate and share that information and really get a grasp on what we’re doing as a whole for Perry County,” Roll added.
Tse said she has already set a timeline for the group to be finished with data collection in the next six months, when a data report will be finished and submitted to IKF to be published, and then evidence-based strategies will be chosen to solve the problems found in the report. If the group completes this phase of the grant project by the deadline, it will be eligible for funding for implementation of its plan.
“We go through a lot of sad reports at the beginning of the meeting about all of these terrible things, but it’s mostly lifestyle related,” Tse said. “If we could change the culture about how people think about their lifestyles and their activities, that would help.”