INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - Recently, Independence County received thousands of dollars in grant money to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for people within the area. The initiative is huge for Independence County. Right now, out of the 75 counties throughout Arkansas, Independence County ranks 62 when it comes to availability of recreational facilities. This grant money will help to change and improve the county's overall health.
"Our county data shows that over 40 percent of our K-12 students are overweight or obese," said Susi Epperson with the Cedar Ridge School District.
But with the help from a 686 thousand dollar sub-grant from the Arkansas Department of Health, the county is pushing to develop and strengthen the wellness policies in all four school districts in the county. "Each objective we have is a policy and environmental change," said Epperson, who played a large role in the grant process.
"It is huge. Those types of funds could make a significant impact on a rural community this size," said Epperson.
She says when you live in a rural community, funding is often limited. The grant will help provide the tools they need to promote better health to children and citizens throughout the area. A Community-Based health coalition representing eight small rural communities throughout Independence County is leading the initiative, using the schools as a hub, for health. Not only improving the wellness programs within the school, but opening the doors to the entire community.
"After the school day is over the facilities not being used, we're utilizing those to provide aerobics, Zumba," said Epperson. As well as provide nutritional advice, and biggest loser programs to motivate people to get in shape.
Epperson says it's a county-wide initiative, and hopes to impact the community in a big way. "Physical activity is now very accessible to them. This prevents them driving 30 or 40 miles round trip to a pricey health club and of course it's affordable because it's free," said Epperson.
She says the programs have been active for the past the few months, and many in the community have already started to see results.