Today, May 17, Missoula was announced as one of just 50 communities to win a coveted $60,000 health planning grant.

“We applied for a grant through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reinvestment fund to work on what we call health inequity in our community," said Lisa Beckiewicz of the Missoula City-County Health Department. "We're really looking at why people are unwell and how we can help them get better through a healthy built environment; how they work, how they move, how they play.”

Beckiewicz says a team of five people studied detailed maps to locate specific communities with higher obesity and asthma rates. Their research led to a recommendation that many Missoulians will find surprising.

“Believe it or not, increasing more parks and green-space in Missoula," Beckiewicz said. "I know it’s hard to believe that in our community we don’t have much, but we actually have, what they call a park deficit sin some of our neighborhoods. We are looking at the Northside and Westside of Missoula, the River Road area,  as well as Franklin to Fort, so that swath of the city of Missoula.”

Beckiewicz says their studies also revealed that nearly 30 percent of Missoula paychecks are spent on housing, which means the purchase of healthy food may fall by the wayside.

The Missoula team will fly out to do intensive training on city planning during the first week of June, during those meetings opportunities for even more grant money will be available, but the city doesn’t know how much just yet.