Bike racks in Madison County part of Affordable Care Act

News-DemocratAugust 12, 2013 

An Affordable Care Act grant is helping to install new bike racks in Madison County.

The grant is part of Illinois' We Choose Health initiative, which is funded by a $25 million Community Transformation Grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The $25 million grant was created by the federal Affordable Care Act in an effort to encourage communities to tackle the cause of poor health in Americans by promoting healthy lifestyles, which, in turn, is expected to help control health care spending. Communities in Illinois had to apply for individual $3.8 million grants.

Madison County expects to have 115 new bike racks installed by the end of September at 20 sites around the county as part of a $75,000 Health and Safe Built Environment project to create an environment that encourages healthy activity.

The bike racks will cost about $15,000 for bike rack hardware, but doesn't include the costs of concrete, installation and site assessment, according to Amy J. Yeager, health promotion manager at the Madison County Public Health Department. Most of the racks will be installed at schools and near parks in an effort to encourage people, especially children, to exercise.

"These bike racks will help schools provide a safe place to keep students' bikes as well as encourage the community to bike more often," Yeager said. "One way the county is helping to combat childhood obesity is by installing bike racks provided as part of the We Choose Health grant."

The bulk of the $3.8 million will be spent on other, yet-unannounced health-related projects in Madison County.

Last year, St. Clair County announced it would use its $3.8 million, four-year We Choose Health grant to develop Complete Street communities, School Health and Safety Programs and Tobacco-Free Multi-Unit Housing.

In July, three federally assisted housing units operated by the St. Clair County Housing Authority went smoke-free. The county is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and local government agencies to turn public housing buildings into smoke-free units during the next several years.

Illinois communities that receive the We Choose Health grant, which is administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health, must spend the funds to implement proactive health programs that fall into three categories:

* Healthy eating and active living.

* Smoke-free living.

* Healthy and safe built environment.

The Illinois communities awarded the $3.8 million grant must spend it to implement programs in their chosen categories that address nutrition and access to healthier foods, increase physical activity and promote breastfeeding; reduce exposure to secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing complexes and outdoor places; improve the quality of screening and treatment for high blood pressure and cholesterol; improve communities' built environments to increase opportunities for physical activity; and to improve the social and emotional health of students.

For more information about We Choose Health, visit www.idph.state.il.us/wechoosehealth.

Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at jschaaf@bnd.com or 618-239-2667.

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