A $60,000 grant awarded Tuesday will be used to help people in Tuscaloosa’s low-income areas.

Invest Health, an initiative of the Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, announced a total of $3 million in grants awarded to 50 mid-size cities. There were more than 180 applicants for the grants.

Invest Health is designed to bring city leaders together as a team to address issues — such as affordable housing, places to exercise and quality jobs — that have an impact on health in low-income areas.

Applicants were required to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related. Selected teams also include members from public school districts, community organizations, and local philanthropies.

Tuscaloosa’s team consists of the city of Tuscaloosa, Whatley Health Services, Community Service Programs of West Alabama, the Tuscaloosa Homebuilders Association and Tuscaloosa Pediatrics.

“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, vice president of Invest Health. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

The Tuscaloosa team plans to focus on inter-generational safety and health projects involving the elderly, young adults and children. The team will work on improving access to affordable housing, increasing technical education and developing safe places to live and play in Tuscaloosa.

“As the anchor institution, Whatley Health Services Inc. is extremely proud of the opportunity being given to Tuscaloosa,” Deborah H. Tucker, CEO of Whatley Health Services, said Tuesday.

“Our team considers being chosen an honor, but also a challenge, to learn and to grow as a community. We are excited that this growth will ultimately be evidenced by improvement in the health status of our friends, family, and neighbors,” she said. “Our planned activities will not only train and instruct many in the city as leaders, it will have direct impacts on the health and safety of children, youth, and the elderly.”

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by Ken Roberts