Public health grant goes to 4th Plain

Kaiser Permanente gives $250K for projects along corridor’s west end

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

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Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor is about to get a healthy living makeover.

Clark County Public Health was recently awarded a $250,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente to support active living projects, policies and environmental changes along the west end of Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.

The grant will fund the project — called Fourth Plain Forward: Improving Central Vancouver’s Health Through Active Living — over the next three years. The health department is collaborating with the city of Vancouver, Bike Clark County and Vancouver Public Schools to introduce a variety of programs and policies.

“We hope to see a lot of small changes that build on each other,” said Cyndie Meyer, Clark County Public Health’s chronic disease prevention program manager. “We want to make the healthy choice, the easy choice.”

The grant will include planning support for the city of Vancouver’s efforts to develop safe, accessible, multi-modal transportation options in the corridor — specifically by tying in the with city’s “Fourth Plain Forward” action plan.

The action plan was created earlier this year by a group of master’s degree students at Portland State University. The plan focuses on economic development and revitalization of a half-mile section of East Fourth Plain Boulevard.

The collaboration allows the city to put more focus on active transportation and a complete street network that makes it safe for all types of transportation — walking, biking and public transit, said Sandra Towne, Vancouver planning manager.

Sidewalk projects and bike lanes, for example, will make the area safer for kids to walk or bike to school and adults to bike to work or walk during lunch, she said.

“It’s such a great pilot project to help those people move more safely and to do it in a more healthy way and not just get in a car,” Towne said.

Public health picked the Fourth Plain corridor as an area to focus efforts because a 2011 program identified the area as one of high disparity and diversity but with businesses and residents willing to engage and move forward, Meyer said.

Poverty is widespread in central Vancouver. The median household income in the project area is 61 percent of the city-wide median income. And the free and reduced lunch rate at the four elementary schools in the corridor is 75 to 82 percent, compared to the school district’s rate of 48 percent, according to the project report.

People living in higher poverty areas have less access to healthy foods and more food insecurity — both of which can impact a person’s health, said Alishia Topper, director of strategic partnerships for the Vancouver school district’s family-community resource centers and a Vancouver City Council member.

“Being able to address some of those barriers to health is important,” she said.

The public health grant funding will also be used to implement activity programs and other projects, Meyer said.

Among those projects are cultural health-messaging street murals, promoting lower speed limits at key intersections, “Safe Routes to School” initiatives and walking school buses to get more kids active and encouraging walking groups among adults working the area. Organizers also hope take back the parks by promoting cultural events and activities there, such as Zumba, tai chi and hula.

And the nonprofit Bike Clark County will work with students at Hudson’s Bay and Fort Vancouver high schools to implement a leadership program in which students learn about bicycle maintenance and safety. Those students can then educate younger kids.

“It’s not just one approach,” Meyer said. “It’s all these different approaches that reinforce each other.”

Project leaders will spend the next couple of months planning and begin community-level work in February.