By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Health Department presented their 2017 initiatives to the Health Education and Welfare committee—including a grant that could help Washington County implement a project to promote physical activity.

The committee approved the motion to move forward with the $10,000 Rural Access to Health and Healthy Active Built Environments grant opportunity. Each of Tennessee’s 89 counties will receive the grant which is designed to improve health outcomes by enhancing access to physical activity through bicycle, pedestrian, greenway and park plans.

At the committee’s Feb. 2 meeting, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge suggested splitting the money into mini-grants for ball fields throughout the county, but Washington County Health Department director Christen Minnick said the suggestion was discouraged.

The plan is supposed to be decided upon by Feb. 28 and put into action by June 30 of this year. However, Minnick said the funds can carry over into the next fiscal year. Minnick also presented the health department’s micro-clinic program that was approved by the committee to be sent to the county attorney for review.

The Tennessee Department of Health’s 16-week, micro-clinic program designed to promote health within the community includes classes with topics such as healthy eating, physical activity, spiritual health and how to quit smoking. Minnick said the classes are also hands-on with activities such as going to the grocery store to pick healthy items. The program is free and open to all ages within the community.

“This actually started in a county in Kentucky and it was very successful there,” Minnick said. “They’ve seen a lot of health improvement in their county with that. That’s why BlueCross BlueShield in Tennessee sort of adopted this model as well and they’re trying to push it out through the health departments.”

Health wasn’t the only topic discussed at the committee’s meeting; Director of Secondary Education for Washington County William Flanary presented an ACT testing event for Washington County. A motion was approved to transfer $8,000 from the previously appropriated Washington County Cannery fund to this initiative.

Washington County and Johnson City are required to issue the ACT college readiness test to at least 200 students, so $8,000 would more than meet that number. Flanary said the test is free to any student. He also said any student that gets a platinum, gold or silver level will get to go to a pizza party.

“That’s going to get the county and the city students tested,” Eldridge said. “To get the program kicked off and get our students on the road to earning this credential, this is a really big deal for us.”