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Health Grant Empowers Youth to Make Community Changes

TACOMA, Wash. – Coming soon to three schools in Eastside Tacoma: Approximately 2,500 Tacoma Public School students will decide how their schools will invest $100,000. Lincoln High School will receive $60,000, Giaudrone Middle School will receive $25,000, and Roosevelt Elementary will receive $15,000.

The unique community project is the result of a National Innovation Grant received through Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. The local health department was one of nine public health organizations nationally to get grants to improve community health in unique ways. The Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI), a division of the Public Health Accreditation Board, awarded the grants.

“We are excited to bring this unique way of improving health to the Eastside,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department director of health. “Empowering students to make budget decisions and plan a project will teach them to work together to affect their community’s health and social connectedness,” he said.

In this participatory budgeting project intended to reflect community health priorities, students will have a voice and direct control over the budget and all aspects of the project, which they will determine. Through the grant agreement, the Health Department’s only stipulation for the money is that it’s invested in a student-directed project that will benefit students on Tacoma’s Eastside. An area with historically poor health outcomes, Tacoma’s Eastside is a current Community of Focus for the Health Department’s health equity initiative.

“Our students at these three Eastside schools will have a chance to unleash their creativity—and improve their community,” said Carla Santorno, Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent. “It’s a life lesson that will benefit our students and their families for years to come.”

Participatory budgeting is an innovative way to manage public money and engage people in decision-making. It gives community members the authority and resources to respond rapidly and directly to the root causes of the health problems they face, reduce the scale and duration of problems, and improve feelings of connectedness and well-being.

The PHNCI grants allow organizations to develop, test and implement innovative practices other public health agencies can adapt to their communities’ needs.

With Lincoln High School receiving $60,000, it is the largest school-based participatory budgeting process in the country.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. As part of our mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. We are one of only 163 accredited health departments in the country and among six in the state to have met or exceeded the Public Health Accreditation Board’s quality standards. Learn more at

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