The Horizon Foundation, a Columbia-based philanthropy organization, announced this week it is granting $300,000 to address childhood obesity in Howard County.
The grants were awarded to three local organizations that can directly impact child obesity—the Howard County Health Department; the Howard County Public School System; and FIRN, an organization that works with immigrants to help them access community resources and opportunities.
One in four children in the county is overweight or obese, according to the Horizon Foundation.
"We really want to tackle major public health issues," said Horizon's president and CEO Nicolette Highsmith Vernick.
- The health department was awarded $86,000 per year over two years to train pediatricians and family physicians in obesity prevention measures, such as discussing sugary drink consumption and calculating body mass index.
- The public schools received $125,000 to fund a web-based student fitness assessment program for grades 4-9, which will allow physical education teachers to assess students' fitness and collect fitness data. All 74 county schools will participate in the program, according to the Horizon Foundation. "The use of technology will allow teachers more flexibility, create faster data analysis and allow them to send information to parents in a more streamlined way," said Highsmith Vernick.
- FIRN received $90,000 to develop a community health worker to promote healthy lifestyles among Latino families. Horizon noted that Latino populations have a significantly higher rate of childhood obesity than the general population.
Highsmith Vernick said the grants were awarded through a competitive grant process.