The Regional Roadmap for a Healthier Appalachian Tennessee program of the Tennessee Institute of Public Health (TNIPH) at East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health was initially launched in 2013 to support local health initiatives in rural Appalachian Tennessee. The Roadmap was designed to support leaders in business, education and health to work together to address their local health challenges with small $2,500 “mini-grants.”
The first cycle of Regional Roadmap projects documented that mini-grants can effectively promote community-based approaches that identify and address specific health issues. This model was expanded into twenty rural West Tennessee counties in 2015 through the Healthy West: Working to Energize and Strengthen Tennessee program, and further expanded in rural Appalachian Tennessee through the Regional Roadmap 2: Down the Road to a Healthier Appalachia. The latter program will extend deeper into rural East and Middle Tennessee in 2016 and provide opportunities for new organizations and communities to participate. Small grants will be continued for single-county programs and funding will be expanded to grants at the $5,000 level for those who take a more regional approach.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation recently featured Regional Roadmap for Healthier Appalachian Tennessee in their magazine Better Tennessee. The article, “Rural communities deliver big results with small investments from Regional Roadmap,” highlighted the Institute’s work, how it exceeded its first year goals and is expanding to other parts of the state. Ms. Ginny Kidwell, director of the Tennessee Institute of Public Health, stated, “We developed great partnerships to get the funding established, and everyone who took part really ran with it. These community leaders knew what they wanted to work on, and because we didn’t make them just stick with one topic, they could tell us what they needed, and then we could help them make it happen.” Better Tennessee also highlighted the Hancock County Regional Roadmap in “Funds expand after-school art program’s offerings” and the Greene County Regional Roadmap in “Tackling workplace wellness with nutrition project.”
TNIPH works with others in the College of Public Health and with partners across the state to support the concept that health is the third critical component, along with economic development and education, for significantly improving overall quality of life.
The major project sponsors of both the original and new programs are BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Niswonger Foundation, Eastman Chemical Company, and ETSU’s College of Public Health. TNIPH also partners with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute for the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, the First Tennessee Development District, the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development and the Tennessee Department of Health.