H.O.P.E. Initiative closing gap in Savannah’s health disparities

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Many living below the poverty line are being hit hard due to coronavirus-related program freezes. One local organization is working to fill in these gaps created by the pandemic.

The REACH team, or Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health, was tasked with closing the gaps in health disparities among vulnerable populations in nutrition, physical activity and community-clinical linkages.

“Whether it be access to education, access to healthy food, access to resources or physical activity spaces, we need to make sure that’s equitable across the board,” REACH Nutrition program manager Dr. Deidre Grim said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) granted REACH $3.4 million, which launched their new initiative H.O.P.E., or Healthy Opportunities Powering Equity. Now, those struggling to put food on the table and maintain a healthy lifestyle have resources they can rely on.

“In these weird times, I think everybody is starting to realize how fragile our health really is,” Physical Activity program manager Armand Turner said. “With REACH and the things we’re doing, it’s really bringing those resources and initiatives that’ve been needed in these communities for so long to them.”

H.O.P.E. is helping fund initiatives like Farm Truck 912, The Corner Store program, the Tide to Town project and virtual exercise programs to reduce health disparities among African-American and Hispanic/Latinx Americans in seven zip codes across Chatham County through these long-term solutions.

Zack’s Quick Stop is part of their corner store initiative to bring in healthy food options and fresh produce to underserved communities.

Community-Clinical Linkages program manager Ty McClendon says during the pandemic, the HERO (Health Effective Resource Organizations) Database is helping raise awareness about a lot of resources available to these communities.

“We were able to form a new category on herohelpme.com, coronavirus help, that has those resources that people may be looking for such as financial assistance, rent and utility assistance, food assistance, and places where people can pick up meals for their families,” McClendon said.

Grim says Chatham County has larger health disparities compared to surrounding counties, and there’s a lot of work to still be done.

“Health disparities are real, especially within the African American community,” Grim said. “We know when we lift up minority communities, everyone else is lifted up as a result.”

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