October 18, 2023

Reed, Whitehouse & Magaziner Announce $4.4M Federal Grant to Help RI Build Healthier Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse along with U.S. Representative Seth Magaziner today announced new federal funding that will make Rhode Island a healthier place to live, work, and play by expanding access to healthy foods and increasing opportunities for exercise.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is awarding a 5-year $4.4 million grant to the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) as part of the State Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) Program to improve physical activity, nutrition, and wellness initiatives.  

Rhode Island may use the federal funding to support key components of RIDOH’s 2023–2028 Rhode Island Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Strategic Plan, a statewide strategic plan for physical activity and nutrition which aims to improve community health and decrease the incidence of chronic diseases.

The federal grant — which is scheduled to be distributed in annual awards of $888,000 this month and over the following four years — is designed to help fight obesity and promote healthy nutrition, wellness, and physical activity. 

Rhode Island may tap the federal SPAN funds to implement statewide and local initiatives and activities in multiple settings, including in schools, childcare facilities, senior centers, worksites, or other community setting to address several target areas, such as increasing physical activity; boosting the consumption of fruits and vegetables; or decreasing the consumption of sugar sweetened beverages.  The federal funds will help address health disparities related to poor nutrition, physical activity, and obesity.

“When it comes to community health, Rhode Island is making progress.  This new federal funding will help the state and its partners address several health priorities and end health disparities,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.  “Ultimately, the goal is to make it easier for everyone, regardless of their income, to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.  So we must continue working to expand access to affordable, healthy options when it comes to food and nutrition and increase opportunities for healthy recreation and physical activities.  This funding will help implement proven public health strategies, sustainable solutions, and environmental changes that can help people get fit, stay healthy, and prevent chronic diseases.”

“Every Rhode Islander deserves access to affordable, healthy food and green spaces for recreation,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “This federal funding will promote nutrition and wellness initiatives, and help reduce health disparities in communities across the Ocean State.”

“All Rhode Islanders deserve to live long, healthy lives, and this federal funding will help ensure that residents across the state have access to healthy nutrition and physical activities,” said Rep. Seth Magaziner.

Obesity is a complex issue that has important consequences for our nation’s health and economy. It is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.  According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), obesity is estimated to account for more than 20 percent of all annual health care expenditures in the United States.

According to the latest data from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), 30.8 percent of adults in Rhode Island experience obesity and 13.2 percent of children ages 10-17.  According to the state’s HEAL Strategic Plan, “this rate increases to one in four for non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic children.  Household income also plays an important role as obesity was significantly higher within households with annual incomes of less than $25,000 (35.6%) and between $25,000–$50,000 (33.7%) compared to incomes above $50,000 (28.3%). Overall, obesity prevalence has been slowly increasing in Rhode Island from 25% of the adult population in 2011 to 30% in 2021.”

Physical activity and healthy eating patterns reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

RIDOH will use the federal funds in partnership with local stakeholders to continue progress toward making it easier for residents to eat well and move more.  The funds can also help make neighborhoods more walkable and increase opportunities for physical activity by connecting pedestrian, bicycle, or transportation networks.  The federal funds may advance the state’s Complete Streets policies with the goal of creating safe and convenient public transportation and walkable and bikeable communities to help integrate physical activity into everyday life.

The CDC State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program also helps infants, children, and youth with nutrition and wellness, including initiatives focused on breastfeeding continuity of care and community support as well as helping child care providers incorporate active movement and healthy food options into child care settings.  RIDOH plans to use a portion of the federal funding to promote and support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has significant health benefits for infants, children, and mothers.  RIDOH would work across state agencies to expand the lactation work force, improve worksite breastfeeding policy, and increase enrollment in WIC breastfeeding education.

Chip Unruh (Reed), 202-224-4642

Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (202) 224-2921

James Kwon (Magaziner), (202) 951-0315

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921