Washington University Partners on $3.8 Million CDC Grant

Faculty; Public Health; Research

Washington University in St. Louis is partnering with the St. Louis Integrated Health Network (IHN) on a five-year $3.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The grant is part of the CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. The funding aims to help improve health, prevent chronic diseases and reduce health disparities in the local Black community residing in the St. Louis Promise Zone.

The St. Louis Promise Zone is an area that includes parts of north St. Louis city and north St. Louis County, designated in 2015 as part of a federal program intended to increase economic activity, improve educational outcomes, reduce serious and violent crime, invest in transformative development and improve health and wellness in high-poverty urban, rural and tribal communities.

Artwork by St. Louis artist Cbabi Bayoc commissioned for the REACH and BRIC projects.

Andwele Jolly, president and CEO of IHN; Denise Wilfley, the Scott Rudolph University Professor of Psychiatry, of medicine and of pediatrics at the School of Medicine, and of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences; and Diana Parra Perez, an assistant professor at the Brown School, will lead the REACH-STL project, which will implement proven public health strategies. It is among 41 REACH recipients. 

“The St. Louis Integrated Health Network is committed to advancing health equity, improving health care delivery and eliminating disparities in the St. Louis region,” Jolly said. “This grant provides us the opportunity to address the interconnectedness of medical, social and environmental contexts that influence health outcomes.”

The REACH-STL project will use three main strategies:

  • Healthy food choices easier everywhere: promoting food service and nutrition guidelines and expanding fruit and vegetable voucher incentives and produce prescription programs. REACH-STL will work with the Building Resilient Inclusive Communities (BRIC) program led by Parra Perez and with Nutrible, a web app that will help deliver medically tailored meals to individuals at home, and digitize and incorporate BRIC’s 24 community organizations into Nutrible’s robust collection of healthy food options, diverse dietitians and community resources.
  • Safe and accessible physical activity: connecting pedestrian, bicycle or transit transportation networks to everyday destinations through collaboration with community partner Trailnet. 
  • Family healthy weight programs: improving access to effective, family-centered, culturally relevant health behavior and lifestyle treatment programs

“Through REACH over the next five years, we will continue to leverage the work that BRIC started in 2021 and expand our partnership to include much-needed clinical-community approaches,” Parra Perez said. “We will continue to address health equity in a consistent manner across all strategy areas by assuring that the solutions and interventions are community-driven, placing a high value on food sovereignty, dignity, agency and food justice.”

 “In REACH-STL, we recognize that health is at least as much a structural issue as it is an individual one,” Wilfley said. “Through robust academic-community partnership across disciplines, we seek to improve community health at multiple levels simultaneously. 

“We will expand access to our CDC-recommended family-based behavioral treatment for promoting overall health and healthy lifestyles across the lifespan by helping families develop skills for navigating an unequal food and built environment, while also facilitating access to healthful foods and improving St. Louis’ infrastructure for safe spaces for physical activity. I couldn’t be more thrilled to work with this outstanding team of community collaborators.”