MIAMI (CBS4)- Miami-Dade County is in a better place when it comes to health. The county was rewarded a $14.7 million grant from the federal government which will help improve health practices and promote wellness.

“This is the first time in the history of public health that we’ve been able to rescue these dollars that will permit us to do this so we are very excited,” said Dr. Lillian Rivera with the Miami Dade Health Department.

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The grant is known as the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative, which was launched by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The HHS developed the initiative in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which states that “$650M shall be provided to carry out evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness strategies authorized by the Public Health Service Act that deliver specific, measurable health outcomes that address chronic disease rates.”

As part of the initiative, the Miami-Dade County Health Department will increase the availability of healthy foods and beverages by revising procurement policies and practices at schools, worksites, hospitals and other community institutions.

“We have a great strategic plan the covers policy changes, creating special environments in communities and access to healthy foods,” said Dr. Rivera about the grant.

Dr. Rivera is in charge of the distribution of the grant, which includes making sure that all the plans are carried out while tackling serious issues in the community.

Additionally, as part of the initiative Miami-Dade hopes to reduce sodium consumption in the county through labeling initiatives and restaurant standards. These efforts will be complemented by a media campaign to promote healthy food and drink choices and increased physical activity, the report said.

Dr. Rivera said that there are a number of key areas to focus on.

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“Our major causes of death in Miami-Dade are heart disease and also diabetes” Rivera said.

Another major issue is childhood obesity. That is why the Miami-Dade Public Schools is one of the beneficiaries of the grant.

Penny Parham, nutritionist for MDPS, is thrilled with the needed help

“The whole part of this grant is to change the environment communities putting prevention to work,” Parham said. “MDPS has always been in the forefront of health for some time but with this grant we’ve been able to take it up a notch.”

Additionally, the department plans to enhance signage for bike lanes, boulevards, and walkable neighborhoods to encourage physical activity such as biking and walking.

The department will also work with child care facilities to increase the amount of physical activity.

The grant’s overall goal is to spread an important message to everyone: Take care of your health. The goal includes reducing risk factors and preventing and delaying chronic disease and promote wellness in both children and adults.

The initiative was launched by HHS in a press briefing held on September 17, 2009.

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For more on the grant visit, their Web site.

Marybel Rodriguez