University District recognized as ‘Thriving Community’ for healthy community initiatives

Janea Snyder

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock University District has been named a “Thriving Community” in recognition of the district’s efforts to promote health and wellness in partnership with the UA Little Rock School of Counseling, Human Performance and Rehabilitation. 

The distinction is given by the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention to recognize nonprofit organizations, businesses, and neighborhood groups working to build a healthier community. The University District received the award at the organization’s Growing Healthy Communities Conference Jan. 28 at Burns Park Hospitality House.

The coalition awards three distinctions: Emerging Community, Blossoming Community, and Thriving Community. Communities that receive the highest “Thriving” designation demonstrate change through data and environment, system and policy level changes. A community’s ability to make lasting changes to both the environment and public policies is a sign of success and sustainability.

In 2011, Dr. Janea Snyder, an assistant professor of health education and promotion in the UA Little Rock School of Counseling, Human Performance, and Rehabilitation, received an initial grant of $18,000 to support the coalition’s mission to improve health by increasing access to physical activity and healthy eating to reduce and prevent obesity.

“This is a really great accomplishment. Since 2010, I have been able to sustain the Growing Healthy Communities effort in partnership with University District,” Snyder said. “The goal for the project is to increase access to healthy food and physical activity in order to reduce the state’s obesity rate.”

She has been partnering with University District Director Barrett Allen and Community Health Program Coordinator Angela Armstrong at University District to carry out the initiatives.

“It is a great honor for the University District to receive recognition from Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention as one of its Thriving Communities in the Growing Healthy Communities Program,” Allen said. “Since 2010, UA Little Rock University District has worked toward improving the quality of health of University District residents through projects such as the Wellness Fair, Farmers Market, Garden to Grill Health Awareness Class, and the Community Garden. Over the years, it has managed to climb each tier of the Growing Healthy Communities program to make it to the top as a Thriving Community. We are grateful for this recognition and, we will continue in our efforts to make the University District neighborhoods a healthier place.”

Her efforts have been supported by the University District, College of Education and Health Professions, School of Counseling, Human Performance and Rehabilitation, Health Services, FitWell, UA Little Rock faculty and staff volunteers, and student volunteers from nursing, health education and promotion, and counseling.

The collaboration produced numerous initiatives that focused on gardening, wellness fairs, cooking classes, farmers markets, and nutritious food shopping.

Some of the more popular programs include the UA Little Rock Growing Healthy Communities Wellness Fair and the Garden to Grill Cooking Class. University District residents receive a free one-year gym membership to the UA Little Rock Donaghey Student Fitness Center in exchange for attending the wellness fair. The Garden to Grill cooking classes teach individuals and families how to cook healthy food on a limited budget. The classes also include a UA Little Rock health educator, a massage therapist, and dieticians who discuss exercise, stress management, and healthy meal plans.

The UA Little Rock Department of Health, Human Performance, and Sports Management also led a project, Smart Shoppers for Seniors, to help older University District residents shop for nutritious food. Through the program, nutritionists lead grocery-shopping trips for seniors living in University District.

“We would not have received this recognition without the contributions, efforts, and support of the University District partnership,” Snyder said. “It takes collaboration to make change happen. It has been a village of people who have contributed to this effort, and I feel that this award sums up the collaboration within our university and how multiple students, staff, faculty, and departments have contributed to this effort.”

Snyder, along with Amar Kanekar and Bennie Prince, professors in the School of Counseling, Human Performance and Rehabilitation, published an article, “Growing Healthy Communities Initiative: Transforming the Built Environment to Combat Obesity,” in the Californian Journal of Health Promotion. The article highlights the efforts of the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention and Growing Healthy Communities, including the University District, to combat obesity among Arkansans by increasing access to healthy foods and physical activity.

In the upper right photo, Snyder holds the certificate designating University District as a Thriving Community.

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