COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Extension has received $768,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the first year of a five-year project to tackle high rates of obesity in 10 Missouri counties.

“This funding supports local programs to improve access to fresh, healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity with the goal of reducing chronic diseases,” said Terry O’Toole of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.

The High Obesity Program (HOP) funds universities working with local cooperative extensions in mostly rural counties where 40% or more of adults have obesity. As of 2020, Missouri has 22 counties with adult obesity rates greater than 40%, up from one county in 2015.

“Many residents in rural Missouri face similar challenges as those across the nation: high levels of poverty, food insecurity, chronic disease and behaviors that contribute to obesity,” said Jollyn Tyryfter, an MU assistant extension professor in nutrition and health education and principal investigator for HOP in Missouri.

MU Extension will implement HOP in the counties of Crawford, Howell, Mississippi, New Madrid, Ripley, Scott, Stoddard, Washington, Wayne and Wright. HOP will work with communities in the 10 counties to implement proven public health strategies, Tyryfter said. This will include

  • Promoting food service and nutrition guidelines and expanding fruit and vegetable voucher incentive and produce prescription programs.
  • Encouraging safe and accessible physical activity by connecting transportation networks to everyday destinations.
  • Improving nutrition and physical activity in early care and education settings.

“CDC funding and access to technical assistance boosts capacity to help Missourians improve overall health and well-being for the long term,” said Lisa Washburn, MU Extension senior program director for Health and Human Sciences.

A complete list of CDC’s HOP recipients and additional information is on the HOP website.

For more information, contact Jollyn Tyryfter at 573-882-2399.