Douglas County is finalist for nationwide health prize with $25,000 reward

Douglas County is one of eight finalists for a national prize that rewards communities for their health initiatives.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize honors communities advancing health, opportunity and equity. Winning communities receive a $25,000 cash prize and a national platform to share their stories.

This is the first year that Douglas County has made it to the final round, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health communications officer George Diepenbrock. He said that 136 communities across the country applied this year. In December, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced that it was one of 35 communities to reach Phase II.

For Phase III, the final step, Douglas County will host a site visit in the spring. Winners will be announced in the fall.

While the foundation’s website states that up to 10 communities can win the prize, only five won last year.

Douglas County’s Phase I application celebrated the community’s progress in affordable housing and behavioral health initiatives, healthy food access and healthy futures. The Phase II application included a video featuring Douglas County residents working to build a peer support system of care in behavioral health and integrate arts and social science to serve behavioral health needs, among other initiatives.

If Douglas County receives the cash prize, the money will go to the United Way, according to Sarah Hartsig, the community health planner for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health. She wrote in an email to the Journal-World that United Way would use the money to “help fund community projects that align with the four issue areas of the Douglas County Community Health Plan (Behavioral Health, Safe and Affordable Housing, Healthy Built Environment/Healthy Food Access, and Anti-Poverty.)”

In a Wednesday news release, Hartsig said being recognized as a finalist is a “great deal” to the Douglas County community.

“We credit our advancement as a finalist to the hard work of so many community members who have worked to offer solutions and opportunities in areas that include affordable housing, behavioral health, healthy food access and providing healthy futures,” she said.


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