Heath Sciences professor to oversee grant project promoting healthy lifestyles in Pontiac

Oakland University and the Oakland County Health Division, on behalf of the Healthy Pontiac, We Can! (HPWC) coalition, have been awarded funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 

The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) award is part of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative to support public health efforts to reduce chronic diseases, promote healthier lifestyles, address health disparities and control health care spending. The three-year, $1.95 million grant will fund a citywide approach to making Pontiac a healthy, vibrant place to live, work and play. 

Jennifer Lucarelli, Ph.D., assistant professor of Health Sciences and chairperson of the HPWC coalition, will oversee the project as the principal investigator. “Healthy Pontiac has been working since 2011 to bring together the community around health and wellness,” Dr. Lucarelli said. “This award is truly an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication of the community to making it easier to live a healthy lifestyle, and we look forward to expanding our reach.”

This funding will increase access to healthy foods and promote physical activity, as well as strengthen culturally relevant health programs for Pontiac’s Hispanic residents. Funded activities include:

  • Expanding Gleaners’ Fresh Food Share Program, which delivers boxes of fresh produce to residents in community locations
  • Launching pop-up produce markets at community sites that provide low-cost produce for sale and accept SNAP/EBT benefits 
  • Implementing a healthy cafeteria promotion campaign at McLaren Oakland Hospital and local schools 
  • Creating a non-motorized master plan for Pontiac that creates safe and accessible walking/biking routes that connect to public parks, fresh food markets, schools, commercial centers, neighborhoods and public transportation. 
  • Introducing enhanced physical education opportunities in schools serving Pontiac children

“This unique opportunity allows expansion of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s vision for a healthier Pontiac and a healthier Oakland County,” said Kathy Forzley, Oakland County Health Division manager/health officer. “HPWC partners continue to come together with a shared goal of reducing chronic disease and health disparities. Healthy Pontiac, We Can! is a premier example of a coalition’s impact on public health and the strength of partnership.”

Other lead grant partners include: All Saints Episcopal Church, Pontiac School District, Gleaners Community Food Bank, Centro Multicultural La Familia, McLaren Oakland Hospital, Oakland County Economic Development & Community Affairs, and Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency.

For more information about the project, contact Dr. Lucarelli at (248) 364-8667 or lucarell@oakland.edu.

About Healthy Pontiac, We Can!
Oakland County Health Division organized the Healthy Pontiac, We Can! coalition in 2011 to help the Pontiac community eat healthy, get active, and live tobacco free. It is a diverse coalition which includes leaders in primary and preventive health care, mental health, human service agencies, education, the religious community, governmental agencies, and local residents.  Oakland University and Oakland County Health Division partner to provide leadership and technical assistance. For more information, visit healthypontiac.org or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/healthypontiac.mi.