A new grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be aiming to help transform Chautauqua County into a healthier place.
The CDC recently funded Community Transformation Grants for 40 small communities across the country, awarding a total of nearly $70 million in funding. The New York State Department of Health applied on behalf of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Broome counties, which showed both a tremendous need and tremendous capacity, according to Lisa Schmidtfrerick-Miller, healthy communities consultant for the Chautauqua County Department of Health. The grant will be administered by the Chautauqua County Department of Health, and it started officially in 2012. It’s a two-year stream of funding, totaling $450,000 for the county. The focus population of this grant is youths birth to 18, and it will target three high-need school districts, being Silver Creek, Dunkirk and Jamestown. Those districts showed health disparities, and the grant addresses three risk factors – physical activity, nutrition and tobacco, in three sectors – early child care, schools and the community-at-large.
In the early child care sector, there are initiatives to increase physical activity and improve food and nutrition for children in those situations. In the school sector, the grant focuses on integrating physical activity in the classrooms, creating safe routes to school that encourage kids to walk or ride their bikes, and establishing a regional food procurement initiative. In the community-at-large sector, the focus follows the Complete Streets policy, which Jamestown has already adopted, as well as several other items.
“With this grant, we’ve been tasked by the state Health Department with encouraging implementation of the Complete Streets policy and trying to get some demonstration going that the city is, in fact, following the ordinance that was passed last year,” said Schmidtfrerick-Miller. “We also have a sugar-sweetened beverage initiative to reduce consumption of those beverages by improving availability of healthier choices. The local housing authorities in the funded counties will be implementing smoke-free policies for their multi-unit properties.”
According to Schmidtfrerick-Miller, the implementation of smoke-free policies has been extended by the state to include other subsidized and Section 8 properties, as well. Adams called it “truly a missed opportunity” for the Appleyard complexes in Jamestown to not have instituted a smoke-free ordinance when they were built.
“This is huge,” said Laurie Adams, director of Tri County Tobacco Free Programs. “We were here for other programs, getting things rolling, and for us to be included in a state program that is then included in a federal program, and to have this money to work with, it is just amazing. Our goal is to make sure that we reach out to housing sectors that hold multi-unit housing, apartment complexes, subsidized housing, all of those types of units. We need to help these people.”
Schmidtferick-Miller and Adams met with the Housing Committee recently to address the grant and see about gaining support from the City Council on the matter, specifically focusing on the implementation of smoke-free housing.
According to a report released by the National Center for Healthy Housing, there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, which has been classified as a Class A carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency. That same report also stated that as much as 65 percent of air in multi-unit dwellings seeps through ventilation, cracks and pipes, involuntarily exposing tenants in nearby units.
“The rate of asthma in our county is off the charts,” said Adams. “We know it’s due in part to a higher rate of smoking in adults in general, but also because of a higher number of children exposed to secondhand smoke in the homes. It’s a health issue. Our education work begins now. We need to work with the managers of facilities and we need to work with the tenants of these facilities. We know of locations where smoke-free housing has successfully happened, and it’s a combination of the management saying that it needs to happen for the health of the people in the homes, along with tenants seeing the importance of this. We’re not asking the smokers to quit, we’re just asking them to not smoke in the homes for the safety of the children.”
“Secondhand smoke is coming into apartments even where no one is smoking, and there are children are being harmed,” said Adams. “I know we’ve been around since the original Surgeon General’s report almost 34 years ago, but we’re still under full understanding that secondhand smoke hurts.”
The goal of this initiative is to reach out to area residents and property owners to help solve this situation, according to Adams. As of June 1, the Lutheran home on Crane Street will be the first home in Jamestown to officially go smoke-free.
“They already had no smoking on their grounds, but now they’re upping it to no smoking inside any of the units, either, which is awesome,” said Adams.
The report from the National Center for Healthy Housing also illustrated that rising costs that come with maintaining a residence where smoking is permitted. The cost for a single apartment to be rehabilitated can go from $560 for a nonsmoking apartment to more than $3,500 for an apartment that was subject to heavy smoking. Cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia are still the No. 1 cause of fires in New York, as well.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development made a recommendation several years ago that strongly urged housing units to go smoke-free, and they recently reissued further encouragement to adopt smoke-free housing policies. Schmidtfrerick-Miller and Adams plan on speaking to the Real Estate Investors Association as well as the housing boards in order to garner further support for the initiatives, and have already done some data collection for the county. Following the presentation, Paul Whitford, D-Ward 6, held an optimistic outlook for the initiatives.
“I have no problem supporting this resolution to back the initiatives,” said Whitford. “I would think that if they have all of these people together in one room and start brainstorming, they’re going to get a lot of support from them. They’re not out there on a limb, sawing it off. There are a lot of people that want to help. I wouldn’t hesitate to help them with a resolution for support through City Council.”
For more information about the Community Transformation Grants, visit cdc.gov/communitytransfor mation.