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Louisville Groups Look To Boost Health In Smoketown

A collection of Louisville nonprofits and community-focused groups is looking to improve health outcomes for residents in Smoketown.

YouthBuild Louisville, IDEAS xLab and The Special Project announced Wednesday they would use a $45,000 grant from the Health Impact Project to develop an action plan to address health disparities in the historically-black neighborhood.

The Health Impact Project is a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Similar grants were awarded to projects in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to a news release.

The average life expectancy in Smoketown is about 8 years shorter than in the city at large, according to the 2014 Louisville Metro Health Equity report.

Theo Edmonds, co-founder of IDEAS xLab, said Smoketown residents suffer from diabetes and heart disease at higher rates than those who live in other parts of the city. He said the plan would engage artists in the planning process for developing what he's calling a cultural blueprint for health.

"This is very much a grassroots-level-up kind of project," he said.

The grant funds are expected to go toward training participants from YouthBuild and IDEAS xLab in how to use a health impact tool developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, Edmonds said. The tool meshes scientific data, health expertise and public input to examine how policies and programs impact public health.

"Our ultimate goal is to have Smoketown be the No. 1 improved neighborhood for health outcomes over the next three to five years," he said.

Edmonds said the early stages of the planning process have began. More in-depth work will kick off in early March.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.