PEORIA — Last fall the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $4.6 million to the Illinois Public Health Institute to address the growing obesity problem, and some of that money is coming to central Illinois.

The Tri-County Area has been awarded $57,000, which will help grow a handful of existing programs and also aid in the implementation of several new ones, said Diana Scott, communications manager for the Peoria City and County Health Department.

“While we may be just one part of this large grant, we in the Tri-County Area believe this grant can help us impact some of our health priorities,” she said.

Illinois Public Health Institute, a Chicago-based not-for-profit with a mission of improving the state's public health systems, is partnering with health departments in three areas with high rates of chronic disease — Peoria, Woodford and Tazewell counties; Chicago and Cook County; and Jackson County.

“We do have special populations that we need to address,” said Scott. “We have pockets of health disparities among rural counties in Woodford and Tazewell counties, and in the African American community. We are looking at those disparities so we can have a more normal cross-the-board health for all.”

The idea is to make it easier for everyone, regardless of economic status, to adopt healthier habits, from choosing healthier foods to getting more exercise.

The grant money will support the Illinois State Physical Activity and Nutrition program, which promotes healthy nutrition and physical activity with four strategies. Improving early childhood care and education, changes to the built environment such as sidewalks that make daily exercise easier, food policy and food systems guidelines, and nutrition for moms and babies.

“In order to make real, sustained progress on chronic disease outcomes in Illinois, we need to expand our view of health to encompass work, school, family and community life," said Elissa Bassler, CEO of the Illinois Public Health Institute. “ISPAN provides an incredible opportunity to align many different organizations around improving systems and physical environments in Illinois to make it easier for people to live the healthiest lives possible, especially in low-income, rural and minority communities that have been hardest hit with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”

Locally, the money will be used to get better food options into businesses, schools, and daycare centers through programs like the Fresh Food Recovery project and Fresh Food Council. The money also will be used to implement the GO NAP SACC program, which helps daycare and education programs set preschool children on a lifelong path to healthy eating and activity. Organizers also plan to use some of the grant to support breastfeeding programs, including the implementation of more CenteringPregnancy programs throughout central Illinois — there are currently two in Peoria. Some of the grant money also will be funneled to the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission’s BikeConnect HOI plan, which is already working to build bicycle paths throughout Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties.

Though $57,000 split between three counties is not a huge amount of money, it is just the first installment of the five-year grant. Next year, the Tri-County Area will likely get more money, said Scott.

“All of it is designed to fight obesity,” she said. “The idea is that by creating better nutrition and better physical activity in the community, we are addressing our own well-being.”

Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or Follow her on, and subscribe to her on