JOHNSON CITY (March 6, 2013) – The Tennessee Institute of Public Health (TNIPH), housed at the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, has been awarded grant funding by the National Network of Public Health Institutes to incorporate a “rural health summit” into the statewide rural development conference held each year by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
TNIPH is one of only three organizations nationwide to receive funding from the “Improving the Public’s Health through Strategic Partnerships and Action” grant program. It is made possible by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
The 18th annual USDA Rural Development Conference, being held April 10-11 in Cookeville, will draw together leaders in education, government, business and health care from throughout Tennessee. The funding grant will enable TNIPH to collaborate with the USDA and other partners during the conference to promote strategies that will aid economic development through a healthier workforce.
TNIPH will focus specifically on increasing awareness of the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program as an economic development tool. A joint project of RWJF and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, the County Health Ranking are published every spring and rank the health of almost every county in the United States. The rankings look at a wide spectrum of measures that affect health – such as access to primary health care, access to healthier foods, air pollution levels, rates of smoking, obesity and teen births – to help counties understand what influences the health of residents and how long they will live. The 2013 County Health Rankings will be released March 20.
Ginny Kidwell, program director of TNIPH, said the grant will be helpful in emphasizing the critical message that public health, education and economic development are all integral and closely-related components of success. TNIPH co-hosted regional health forums last year in all three geographic regions of the Volunteer State.
“A careful review of the rankings each year shows that the majority of Tennessee counties that are in the lower half of the rankings are in rural parts of the state,” Kidwell said. “Serving as a co-sponsor of the USDA Rural Development Conference will enable the Tennessee Institute of Public Health to collaborate with a broad range of leaders at the grassroots level. Our focus will be working with rural community leaders to educate them about the County Health Rankings and ways they can take action toward improving health.
“There is no better economic development tool than a healthy and well-educated workforce.”
Dr. Randy Wykoff, executive director of TNIPH, agreed.
“Increasingly, businesses are recognizing that an investment in health and wellness increases productivity, enhances employee satisfaction, and, above all, is a positive return on investment,” Wykoff said.
TNIPH is a legislatively-mandated, statewide convener of organizations, agencies and groups that builds and fosters the collaborations necessary to improve the public’s health. The institute is on the Web at http://www.etsu.edu/tniph/.