In June 2001, President Bush launched the HealthierUS Initiative to help improve the health and wellness of all Americans by focusing on four key areas: physical activity, preventive screenings, balanced nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices (such as quitting smoking). Since then, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has implemented a variety of activities to help health care professionals play an important role in achieving the President’s goals, under the banner of the department’s Steps to a HealthierUS program.

One way HHS is helping to bring HealthierUS into underserved minority communities is through its new community grant program. This past September, the agency awarded 12 grants, totaling $13.7 million, to support community health programs targeting African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, U.S./Mexican border populations, immigrants, low-income populations, uninsured or underinsured persons and other vulnerable, high-risk groups. Between them, the grant recipients serve 23 communities, including seven large cities, 15 small cities or rural communities and one tribal consortium.

This first round of grants focused specifically on programs designed to prevent or reduce the burden of diabetes, asthma, overweight and obesity–all of which are serious minority health issues–by addressing three related risk factors: physical inactivity, poor nutrition and tobacco use. The community-based programs that received Steps funding range from walking programs and smoking cessation programs to plans for increasing healthy food choices in schools.

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson describes these Steps-funded programs as “innovative and exciting. From the Michigan tribe increasing its knowledge of traditional foods like fish, berries and wild rice to the expanded walking program in a New York community, each grantee is using creative approaches tailored to achieve success in their individual community.”

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