Several Obesity Working Group members cooperated with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) to craft a grant proposal to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the proposal netting $790,000 to battle obesity and chronic diseases in 14 Alabama counties.

blackbelt counties

The counties are located in the area known as the Black Belt because of its black, fertile soil. The area, which still suffers from the legacy of slavery, today is synonymous with poverty. The Birmingham News has dubbed the Black Belt “Alabama’s Third World.

The awards are part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending. The CDC will administer the grants, which will run for three years.

HHS awarded $4.6 million in new funding to six universities. The program funds land-grant universities located in states with counties that have more than 40 percent prevalence of adult obesity. Universities will work through existing Extension and outreach services in those counties to improve residents’ access to healthy foods and physical activity, reduce obesity, and prevent and control obesity-related illness.

Extension professionals and Auburn faculty are working with communities to develop programs and practices to combat obesity that are best suited to their needs. Extension professionals will provide expertise in nutrition, and nursing faculty will provide wellness and community health guidance. Forestry and wildlife sciences faculty will lead efforts to improve opportunities for exercise in outdoor settings.