Officials from the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency and UofL announced their plans before the coalition’s first meeting Feb. 24 at Shelbyville’s Stratton Center.

The University of Louisville is pleased to partner with KIPDA on this important project, UofL Provost Shirley Willihnganz  said at the announcement.  She spoke about the need to work together and combine resources to ensure the state becomes a healthier place to live. The University of Louisville has committed itself to being a good neighbor.

Over the next five years, KIPDA will use a $2.5 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess what residents in those counties consider to be their greatest health needs and the factors that may hinder their efforts to achieve healthier lifestyles. Those could include such things as limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, lack of walking and cycling  paths or a shortage of affordable health-related services.

Social work faculty Pam Yankeelov, Annatjie Faul, Wanda Lott Collins and Joseph D’Ambrosio will work with KIPDA on grant assessment and evaluation.

KIPDA selected the three counties because they have high incidence of diabetes. The effort is particularly aimed at reducing diabetes-related inequalities in such vulnerable populations as older adults, minorities and low-income residents.

One of the first ways residents will identify community obstacles to good health is through a photovoice project. They will take photos of their environmental challenges with disposable cameras and then discuss them in focus groups. KIPDA and UofL researchers will map the communities and look for areas to improve.

The community is defining what are the most important issues, Faul said.

The coalition will work to help make positive lifestyle changes more achievable for people with diabetes in each county and to increase awareness about the onset, management and prevention of diabetes.

We know social problems don’t end at the edge of the urban core, Kent School Dean Terry Singer said. We’ve been committed to working with the state in many capacities for many years, and KIPDA has been a partner of ours for many years.

Singer said the Kent School has continued to work for health equity and this grant is one step forward to making that happen.

This type of grant could lead to fundamental change in communities and even affect economic development planning, said Barbara Gordon, KIPDA’s social services division director. KIPDA’s region includes seven Kentucky and two Indiana counties.

Gordon said the coalition’s work in Bullitt, Shelby and Henry counties will involve health departments, health care facilities, doctors’ offices, community action agencies and local governments, as well as people with diabetes and their families and caregivers.