Determined to make Rochester the healthiest community by 2020, UR’s Strong Memorial Hospital implemented Project Believe – a health initiative aimed at inner city neighborhoods. Introduced in October of 2000, the program addresses health concerns ranging from obesity to immunizations.

The programs change annually for Project Believe. Each year, the Medical Center faculty and staff submits proposals for several programs and those selected receive grants ranging from $36,000 to $55,000 from the Project Believe Small Grants program.

“To be eligible for the grant, programs needed to address obesity, physical activity or a health disparity issue and required a partnership with a community organization,” Associate Director of Communications for URMC Public Relations Germaine Reinhardt said.

At present, Project Believe runs four programs with specific focuses – a fifth is on its way.

They are Nutrition Exercise Education Program, Rochester Urban Nutrition and Fitness Initiative (RUNFit), Creating Opportunities for Personal/Parent Empowerment/Healthy Children (COPE/Healthy Children) and Train to Sustain: A University Community Partnership to Promote Healthy Living.

Fostering Resilience Among Hispanic Children in the Rochester City School District is the fifth program still yet to be implemented.

Project Believe Director Andrea Lennon stresses the importance of working with the youth of the community because of the long-term effects of such issues as obesity. “We wanted to concentrate on the overweight and obesity epidemic because of the far-ranging effects it has on an individual’s health, from early onset of Type II diabetes to hypertension to cardiovascular disease,” Lennon said.

“By making community collaboration a requirement of the grant, we are assured that these interventions were created with community input and participation.”

Currently, nearly 5,000 children and adults participate in the various programs. They learn about the importance of physical activity and good nutrition.

“Priority areas for Project Believe in 2003 include addressing overweight and obesity, physical activity, environmental quality [in particular] lead poisoning and access to health care and immunizations,” Reinhardt said.

The fifth Project Believe program still yet to be implemented will focus on health-awareness issues within the Hispanic community. According to the 2003 Project Believe Small Grants program fact sheet, they tend to have unequal access to health services than is seen in the non-minority groups of Rochester.

“In addition, the relative shortage of bilingual or bicultural mental health providers in schools is a barrier to early intervention for Hispanic children.”

Since the start of Project Believe, the URMC as well as community members have implemented over two dozen health interventions.

Determined to rejuvenate both the physical and the mental health of the Rochester community, the Project Believe staff works continuously on developing new programs to directly address the most pressing concerns in the area.

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