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Faculty member focuses on community approach to support healthy lifestyles

A CPASS faculty member is evaluating ongoing efforts of a mini-grant program that funds projects across the state with an emphasis on obesity and chronic disease prevention and management.

Peter Giacobbi, associate professor, CPASS sport and exercise psychology, is a co-investigator on two West Virginia Prevention Research Center (WVPRC) contracts. Giacobbi is Affiliated Faculty with the WVPRC and is a contributor on the two evaluation contracts with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH). In addition, Neel Rao, CPASS alumnus, was hired as program assistant on the two recent contracts. The purpose of the first contract is to evaluate mini-grants supported through the WVBPH’s Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease (HPCD).

“It is widely recognized that a community driven approach to health promotion that engages key stakeholders is an effective way to prevent or reduce the impact of chronic disease. The HPCD partners with organizations to facilitate the mini-grant process that results in funding going to schools, worksites, university departments, community groups and clinical entities throughout West Virginia. Grant recipients are encouraged to make policy, systems, and environmental changes that support healthy lifestyles,” Peter says.

Mini-grant funding supports increased physical activity, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, reduced sugar sweetened beverages, increased water intake and tobacco control. The 2020 application process was implemented by multiple groups, including the CPASS Center for Active WV.

The evaluation results from 2020 revealed that 25 grant recipients implemented 105 policy, systems and environmental changes in their communities.

“Streamlining the evaluation across the mini-grant facilitating organizations is a big project and a wonderful service to the state with the potential large scale impacts within the 25 localities. The WVPRC is working with the Center for Active WV and the Active Southern WV initiative,” he explains.

“The pandemic affected all of the organizations. It became a challenge to shift to a model that met the safety and social distancing requirements,” he adds.

The Center for Active WV is led by CPASS faculty members Eloise Elliott and Sam Zizzi, co-directors, and Sean Bulger, education coordinator. Rachel Byrne is the community coordinator.

Peter also acts as a co-investigator for a contract to provide evaluation services to the WVBPH’s Division of Tobacco Control. The evaluation team is assisting with the development of grantee workplans, evaluating grantee progress and tracking the dissemination and impact of DTP’s new Vaping Toolkit. This year, funded organizations are struggling with how to re-invent programming to be primarily on-line since in person activities have all disrupted due to COVID-19.

“Since the groups had to cancel events due to the pandemic, many went virtual, relying on internet-based resources to continue their outreach,” he says. “Our evaluation team evaluated the activities and objectives of the programs, how many people they impacted and the number of community and clinical referrals to tobacco prevention programs.”

Both of the awards have continued funding through 2021.

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