A national health foundation has named a Lake Village obesity reduction and health program as a finalist for national recognition.

Lake Village, home to about 2,300 Arkansans, was recently named one of 12 finalists throughout the country for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize. The Lake Village project is supported by the Chicot County Cooperative Extension Service.

The $25,000 prize is awarded annually to communities working to transform their neighborhoods, schools and other civic institutions into healthier environments, according to a news release.

According to its website, the foundation chooses finalists and national prize winners based on six criteria:

Defining health in the broadest possible terms.

Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions.

Creating conditions that give everyone a fair and just opportunity to reach their best possible health.

Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members.

Securing and making the most of available resources.

Measuring and sharing progress and results.

Jennifer Conner, regional obesity reduction program associate for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the Lake Village community had taken numerous steps to meet each of the award’s criteria, including the expansion of a community garden and the addition of a second farmers’ market, establishing a free fitness center, the zoning of a “creative corridor” for artwork and much more.

“As a native of Lake Village, I am both excited and proud that the community has come together to address the issues we face as a rural area,” Conner said. “We want the next generation to have a quality place to live and play. We have not only improved our natural assets, but created new assets that will have a long-term impact for Lake Village.”

Conner said work by the Cooperative Extension Service with the city began in 2015. The work is grant funded through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and expressed through two programs: SPAN, the State Physical Activity and Nutrition program administered by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; and ArDROP, the Arkansas Delta Region Obesity Project.

The Lake Village program has also received guidance or assistance from the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care and WinRock International. The program operates as the Delta Consortium for Arts and Innovation.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said the 2019 winners will be announced in the fall.

Extension and healthy habits — The Cooperative Extension Service’s participation in Lake Village’s obesity reduction work is just one of many of the service’s efforts throughout Arkansas to reduce obesity and enable everyone to live a healthier life. Through its Family and Consumer Science section, the extension service delivers health and nutrition education, exercise and stress management programs, as well as personal finance information.

As part of ArDROP, the Cooperative Extension Service works with community partners to address obesity in St. Francis, Lee, Mississippi and Phillips counties. The CDC selected these counties because they all have obesity rates of more than 40 percent. The ArDROP project will continue through September 2023.

To learn about obesity reduction efforts in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.edu. Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without discrimination.

— Ryan McGeeney is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.