James and Mildred Moreland received the 2012 Partners and Leadership (PAL) Award at the annual Tennessee Public Health Association (TPHA) conference held in Franklin, Tn. The PAL Award is presented to a non-public health professional, group, or organization which has made a significant contribution on behalf of public health that is extraordinary and would set an example for others.
The Morelands have lived in East Chattanooga for more than 30 years. Concerned about issues confronting their community, they led the formation of the Chattanooga East Side Task Force in 2005. Shortly thereafter, the group acquired a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization status. The Morelands consistently led the group in its efforts to bring attention to community issues that had plagued families residing in the eastside community for years. The task force ultimately identified five focus areas: economic development, housing, law enforcement, youth and health issues.
Committees comprised of neighborhood residents and representatives of area businesses, agencies serving the community, and government officials were formed for each of the five focus areas. Ms. Moreland insisted that she head the Health Committee of the task force. “As a retired nurse, I understood that the poor health outcomes experienced by residents were tied to the low educational attainment levels of children and family members, the declining economic state of the community, poor housing, and crime,” she said.
In 2007, the Chattanooga East Side Task Force received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a Weed and Seed Program to help address youth gang violence. The Task Force also received grants to help address crucial health issues facing the community. “When people see that they don’t have resources needed to better their neighborhood, they often have to identify other means that could benefit the community,” said Mr. Moreland.
According to the 2008 State of Chattanooga Regional Report conducted by the OCHS Center for Metropolitan Studies, East Chattanooga was identified as one of nine subregions with the worst overall health outcomes. The Task Force secured a $243,000 Health and Wellness grant from the Memorial Hospital Catholic Charities Foundation to provide exercise and weight loss programs at three recreation centers and offer education on diabetes, hypertension, and healthy eating.
Memorial Hospital also awarded the Task Force a $209,000 Violence Prevention grant to help complete assessments and surveys in the community and develop a Domestic Violence Resource Guide that was distributed in both English and Spanish.
As part of the East Side Task Force, the Morelands have implemented several community initiatives including: an annual health fair, A Day of Service neighborhood beautification project, health checkups for elderly residents, and community garden development.
Two years ago, the Task Force evolved into the East Chattanooga Neighborhood Improvement Program. To ensure efforts are sustained, the group founded by the Morelands developed strong working relationships with several organizations including the Chattanooga Police Department, Erlanger Hospital, Memorial Hospital, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, Southside and Dodson Avenue Community Health Centers, First Things First, the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, the City and County Mayor’s offices and many others.