ALBANY — It was no secret that health conditions, including obesity and hypertension, were big concerns in this region. But the arrival of COVID-19 made the fatal consequences of those conditions even more apparent.
More than 150 Dougherty County residents were victims of the novel coronavirus, and underlying health conditions were a factor in the bulk of those deaths.
A $100,000 grant awarded to Dougherty County will help address those health problems and the food deserts that see many residents living in areas with no nearby stores where they can find fresh fruits and produce.
“This was a very competitive grant,” Dougherty County Administrator Michael McCoy said. “The (Dougherty County Commission) board approved the grant, and the grant will be awarded in September.”
The county will receive the first installment of $50,000 for the two-year Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Grant awarded by the American Public Health Association in July. The grant period will be from July 1 through Sept. 30, 2022.
Funding was provided by the Aetna Foundation.
Some of the objectives for the county include encouraging better health outcomes through physical activity and addressing nutrition-related health challenges. The county will partner with Flint River Fresh, an Albany-based group that seeks to increase access to healthy food, and the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.
“We will bring in other partners; we will have community representatives,” McCoy said. “We’re going to work collaboratively in developing our program.
“We have to address certain challenges we have in our community. That is our goal, to address these things.”
The county will submit its plan to address those challenges by Sept. 30.
“Even prior to the pandemic, we dealt with food deserts, and we knew we had challenges in our community and health indicators for our community,” McCoy said. “We were aware of the challenges and knew this grant would be beneficial.”