NIFA invests $1.4 million in health and safety education for rural communities

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $1.4 million in grants to enhance the quality of life for citizens in rural areas through the Rural Health and Safety Education competitive (RHSE) grants program.

Through these awards, the program is supporting two projects to address the critical challenges of substance misuse in rural communities. Secretary Vilsack announced the eligibility of such projects for the grants in March in Atlanta at a national drug misuse summit. In January, President Obama tapped Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency effort focused on the rural opioid epidemic. The RHSE grants are only one way USDA is using its resources to address the crisis. On Aug. 31, Vilsack announced an initiative to provide transitional housing for rural Americans in recovery from substance use disorders, and USDA has also awarded Distance Learning and Telehealth Medicine grants to health facilities to help treat individuals in rural areas.

"Many individuals and families living in rural areas and communities experience disparities related to health, safety, and well-being. The opioid epidemic that is ravaging our rural communities has highlighted these challenges," said Secretary Vilsack. "Inadequate access to health and education resources is often the cause of these hardships. These projects will help promote and enhance rural health, prevent substance use disorders, strengthen economic vitality and, in the long term, mitigate the effects of rural poverty."

The Rural Health and Safety Education competitive grants program supports non-formal health education programs and services that provide timely health information suited to rural residents of all ages. Projects are tailored to life stages, cultural differences, health literacy, and occupational and environmental circumstances. These projects use behavioral and social science to increase motivation for healthy living, promote access to health and educational activities and training for volunteers and health service providers. Since 2009, NIFA has awarded $10.6 million to the RHSE program.

Fiscal year 2016 grantees include:

  • University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $359,487 – Through a partnership with Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, this project will engage rural Georgians and Texans and increase participation in recommended breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings, as well as nutrition and physical activity behaviors related to cancer prevention. To aid in these efforts, the projects will capitalize on the existing, successful University of Georgia Extension Program, Cooking for a Lifetime of Cancer Prevention Cooking School.
  • Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $356,257 – This project expands on the existing Keys to Embracing Aging program to reach communities statewide in Kansas and Kentucky. The program introduces and reinforces 12 healthy lifestyle behaviors, including nutrition, physical fitness, social, and mental wellness, personal safety, stress reduction, and financial management.
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $362,378 – Montana residents face serious health challenges in the form of mental illness, substance misuse and a suicide rate that is nearly twice the national average. To address the challenges of access to resources, Montana State University will lead a state-wide project to train extension faculty to promote mental health literacy and youth suicide prevention among rural Montanans.
  • Penn State University, State College, Pa., $359,628 – PROSPER (Promoting School-university-community Partnerships to Enhance Resilience), established in 2001, promotes healthy development and to avoid long-term health and behavioral problems in rural youth through the use of universal, evidence-based interventions. This project will expand PROSPER into new, rural communities in Pennsylvania to address issues including substance misuse, problem behavior, family strengths and positive youth development.

Previously funded projects include a University of Tennessee train-the-trainer program to foster healthier childcare and home environments for infants and children, and a University of Hawaii project that provided community workshops and water testing kits for the 60,000 rural citizens who rely on rainwater catchment systems for drinking water and other uses.

NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.


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Media Contact

Kelly Flynn
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