By Hannah Bingham

A group of Union College employees, part of the Spread the Health Appalachia Microclinic Program, visited the Barbourville Community Garden.  Spread the Health Appalachia works in the Cumberland Valley region of southeastern Kentucky as a support for communities to create and develop healthier lifestyles and environments. These changes aim to address and combat widespread chronic conditions in the area, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. According to the spread the health website, the program consists of an integrated set of activities that aim to increase access to clinical and preventive services, to improve nutrition and access to healthy food options where people live, work, learn and play, and to expand opportunities for physical activity. Spread the Health is funded by a CDC Community Transformation Grant and is implemented by Microclinic International in partnership with the Knox County Health Department. Spread the Health has been working with the Grow Appalachia program in Knox County in the Barbourville and Dewitt Community Gardens and also with the development of the Knox County Farmers’ Market.


The Microclinic Program is one of the various Spread the Health activities that is working with groups of people in the community directly to help prevent and manage diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The groups organize to learn together, support each other, and share resources to build healthier homes and communities. The idea of the Microclinics is that healthy behavior is contagious and this allows a social medium for the spread of healthy choices.



One of the Microclinic groups from Knox County consists of Union College employees from various departments. The group used their meeting time Tuesday to pay a visit to the Barbourville Community Garden.  While at the garden, the group was given a tour of raised beds and tilled plot. During the tour, the group was taught about basic gardening skills and was even given the chance to help out with the various tasks to be completed that day. The group adopted a plot, planting cantaloupe, squash, and cucumbers in their crate-style raised bed. The group also helped pull weeds from communal beds and helped do the “Florida weave” technique to stake tomatoes after a demonstration. The time spent at the garden was a valuable opportunity for the group to be exposed to and learn about gardening and hopefully sparked an interest in future gardening opportunities for members of the group.