Fried chicken is out at Antioch Baptist Church’s Sunday and Wednesday night dinners – replaced by lots of vegetables, baked chicken and fruit.

“When you look at your health and spiritual side, if you can get those two in synch, it makes life worth living,” says Rev. Vincent Dortch, pastor of the church in Carroll County, Ga.

The emphasis on healthier eating among the church’s congregation is due to the Get Healthy, Live Well (GHLW) program, which was launched by Carrollton, Ga.-based Tanner Health System in 2013. A GHLW community outreach coordinator comes to Dortch’s church every week to teach classes on topics ranging from nutrition to managing diabetes.

Spearheaded by the health system, GHLW is a partnership of more than 160 local, state and national groups that promotes a culture of wellness for the 151,000 residents of west Georgia’s Carroll, Haralson and Heard counties.

The program received a 2016 AHA NOVA Award, which recognizes hospital-led partnerships that are helping to build healthier communities.

“[GHLW] has helped many area faith-based organizations enhance their wellness policies, establish health ministries and train community members to lead their friends and neighbors in wellness programs,” says Dortch.   

“When people see GHLW’s benefit on their personal health, they want to become health educators and help others in the community, because it becomes a personal mission for them,” says Denise Taylor, Tanner Health’s senior vice president and chief community health and brand officer.

A 2012 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped get the program off the ground. Nearly 600 volunteers and 24 task forces serve as grassroots advocates for reducing obesity rates, eliminating tobacco use, increasing physical activity and improving nutritious eating at area schools, businesses, hospitals and clinics, early child care centers and churches. 

“With population health, we are looking at the entire population of the community and how we can improve their health,” Taylor says. “We are working to change the culture around health.”

GHLW sponsors community-wide weight loss challenges and family centers weight-management programs. It partners with physician practices to develop a community clinical linkage model for referring people with diabetes and hypertension, as well as other chronic conditions, to evidence-based community health programs.

Its partnership with area schools has led to several initiatives that teach students about the importance of healthier lifestyles in fun and innovative ways. For instance, GHLW supports an interactive traveling exhibit for kids ages 6 to 12, as well as the “Power of Produce Club,” which encourages kids to make healthy food choices. A recent “Don’t Be a Bonehead” campaign sought to curb smoking among area teens.

It also partners with school administrators and parents on a “Safe Routes to School” initiative, which makes it safer for kids to use area trails to walk or bike to school.

“Tanner Health got behind the effort and it’s taken off,” says Lori Blackmon, a parent who chairs the Safe Routes to School task force. “It’s rewarding to see more kids walking and biking to school … getting that exercise and having a blast doing it.”

Another program, “Cooking Matters,” teaches low-income residents how to prepare healthy foods at home. And to reinforce the healthful initiatives, a “Menu It” app provides information on heathy food choices at local restaurants.

“It is very exciting to see the change in our community as a result of these efforts,” says Linette Dodson, the Carrollton City Schools’ nutrition director. “Tanner Health takes to heart its responsibility to help improve the community’s health.”

Interested in applying for a 2017 AHA NOVA Award? Dec. 2 is the deadline. .