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Contact:  Janet M. Caldwell

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Project aims to improve health and reduce health disparities


NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE (November 18, 2014)—Meharry Medical College has been awarded a Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant in the amount of $451,430 to launch Nashville REACH 2020, a program to increase the consumption of healthy foods and beverages among African-American residents living in the 37207 and 37208 zip codes in Nashville. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will administer the grant which runs for three years subject to availability of funds.

Key stakeholders, including the Tennessee Department of Health and the Nashville Health Disparities Coalition, will lead the effort to form partnerships with churches and neighborhood associations in North and Northeast Nashville. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this area of Davidson County is considered a food desert because of its lack of full service grocery stores and access to fresh foods. Nashville REACH 2020 aims to bring about changes in policies, systems and environmental factors that serve as barriers to accessing healthy foods and beverages in food deserts.

“The mix of people and interests represented around the table, who planned this grant proposal, was impressive,” said Bruce Behringer, M.P.H., deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health. “The fact that the plan came from both North and Northeast Nashville community representatives and health professionals gives an important clue as to why it was selected by the CDC and why the program will work. Dealing with the disparities in chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, is a total community issue that affects all in the city and state. Finding new ways to consider preventing problems will help reduce medical costs and the excessive death rates suffered by Tennesseans.”

Margaret Hargreaves, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at Meharry, is the principal investigator of the project and believes that focusing on African-American residents in 37207 and 37208 zip codes in North Nashville will yield the best attempt at reducing health disparities.

“This is an excellent opportunity to impact risk factors, such as obesity, that predispose residents in 37207 and 37208 to diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer,” said Dr. Hargreaves. “African Americans suffer disproportionately from these chronic diseases more than Caucasian residents of Davidson County.”

Launched in 1999, REACH is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, reduce health disparities and control health care spending. The program focuses on racial and ethnic communities experiencing health disparities. Awardees include local governmental agencies, community-based nongovernmental organizations, tribes and tribal organizations, Urban Indian Health Programs and tribal and intertribal consortia.

HHS awarded a total of $35 million in new grant awards to 49 local health agencies. Seventeen organizations were awarded funds for basic implementation activities and 32 additional organizations were funded to immediately expand their scope of work to improve health and reduce health disparities. They will use public health strategies to reduce tobacco use and exposure, improve nutrition, increase physical activity and improve access to chronic disease prevention, risk reduction and management opportunities.

REACH is financed in part by the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act.

To learn more about Nashville REACH 2020 and the Nashville Health Disparities Coalition, call 615-327-6927.

About Meharry Medical College: Meharry Medical College founded in 1876, is the nation’s largest private, independent historically black academic health center dedicated solely to educating minority and other health professionals. True to its heritage, it is a United Methodist Church affiliated institution. The College is particularly well known for its uniquely nurturing, highly effective educational programs; emerging preeminence in health disparities research; culturally sensitive, evidence-based health services and significant contribution to the diversity of the nation’s health professions workforce. Diverse Issues in Higher Education’s ranking of institutions annually lists Meharry as a leading national educator of African Americans with M.D. and D.D.S. degrees and Ph.D. degrees in the biomedical sciences. Visit to learn more.