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Take Time for School Breakfast

March 2-6 is National School Breakfast Week—a five day celebration of the school breakfast program and a way to underscore the importance of breakfast to a student’s overall health and learning ability.

Research shows that eating breakfast correlates with improvements in students’ academic achievement in vocabulary, math and on standardized tests. Further, children who eat a healthy breakfast are less likely to be truant or late for school. And these children are less likely to be overweight or obese.

During this week, schools will be promoting the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. Help spread the word to students and their families that the school breakfast program is an important step towards good health and good grades.

NJPHK Serves Up “Best Practices” for YMCAs

Frost_Valley_KitchenNew Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids’ (NJPHK) systemic approach to healthy living through access to healthy food, school wellness and physical activity is providing a roadmap for YMCAs.

Vicky Williams, senior program director of the Frost Valley YMCA Camp, conferred with NJPHK Deputy Director Darrin Anderson when Frost Valley was seeking –and later won — a $50,000 grant from the National Recreation Foundation. The grant enabled Frost Valley to pilot a wellness initiative, focused on nutrition and physical activity, at its camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Shannon O’Connor, food access coordinator at NJPHK-Trenton, took a sabbatical from NJPHK to spend three months at Frost Valley. She implemented the wellness summer curriculum and helped the YMCA transition into its fall education program by training instructors to run healthy cooking classes.

The program went so well that Frost Valley received a two-year grant, with 75 percent more funding, to expand the pilot and fully integrate wellness into camp activities year-round.

O’Connor said her work at Frost Valley was an “opportunity to put into play the work our partners have been doing in Trenton. We wanted to show campers how they could carry their healthy experience at camp back home and keep eating healthy foods and being active.”

Nutrition education and diabetes prevention was the focus of program. Frost Valley built a full teaching kitchen with 15 stations equipped with home cooking; type stoves and equipment, not an industrial kitchen. “It was important that the kids learn to cook in a kitchen that looked like their house or apartment. It helped them feel at home and comfortable,” said O’Connor.

“By making food prep fun, kids acquire living skills that will stay with them after camp. We want the kids to bring these easy, quick-to-make, nutritious meals home to begin living a healthier life,” said O’Connor.

The camp held six classes each day, and added eight evening programs because interest was so high. Each class could accommodate up to 20 campers. The oldest boys did an Iron Chef healthy cook-off challenge. Wellness was incorporated across camp activities. For example, the theater stage craft team came to the kitchen to construct healthy gingerbread houses out of matzo crackers and fruit.

An Adventure Village Challenge was the prime physical activity. O’Connor and five teens did a four-day hike in the backwoods. All other campers were challenged to match that with a physical feat of their own. “The kids did everything from a 15-minute walk to jogging up the mountain in record time. Over 200 staff and campers took part in the challenges,” said O’Connor.

“Everything I helped to do at Frost Valley was based on our NJPHK strategy,” said O’Connor. Frost Valley is now creating a curriculum guide based on the summer pilot and presenting it at YMCA conferences to incorporate into other Y programs. “It’s great to know that the NJPHK strategy will influence healthy lives at home and at camps for children and their families well beyond the reach of our Trenton community.”

YMCA 7th Grade Initiative Changes One Life at a Time

basketball_team73468234Through its 7th Grade Initiative, the YMCA provides membership to interested 7th graders for a year. It’s a chance for 7th graders to benefit from YMCA programming at a critical time in a young person’s life.

Thomas Galuppo, Director of Healthy Living at the Gateway Family YMCA Five Points Branch in Union, NJ, recently shared a story about the impact of the 7th Grade Initiative on the life of one young man.

Galuppo met 7th grader Kenny Noncent, when he visited Kawameeh Middle School to talk about the 7th Grade Initiative. After the talk, Kenny came to the Y with his mother and enrolled in the program. His mother said she wanted Kenny to get out more and not just sit around the house. It worked — Kenny became a very familiar face at The Five Points Branch.

Kenny grew to love basketball and would shoot nonstop. Through the Y’s Teen Basketball Skills and Drills class, Kenny improved his skills and prepared to try out for his middle school team. The YMCA coaches took Kenny under their wing because of his passion and potential.

Kenny practiced countless hours up until the day of his first tryout. But at tryouts, he missed the cut and did not make his school team. It was frustrating for Kenny to not achieve the results he hoped for after working so hard.

As it turned out, there was a Y team in need of Kenny’s skills. Galuppo was building Gateway’s first ever Youth Basketball Association (YBA) basketball team to compete in the YMCA league, and he needed of one more player. Kenny filled the final spot.

Kenny became one of the leading scorers throughout the season. He gained more and more confidence on and off the court. The team made it all the way to the Final four in the March Madness YBA Tournament at the Wyckoff YMCA.

Fast forward one year: Kenny is now a starter on his middle school team. Galuppo believes that without the 7th Grade Initiative Kenny would not be where he is today. “I feel that just walking through the YMCA’s doors changed his life and was able to propel him to become a better basketball player as well as overall person,” said Galuppo. “The 7th Grade Initiative gives kids a chance to better themselves here at the YMCA and Kenny took full advantage of it.”

Trenton Schools Adopt Wellness Policy

166272215The Trenton Board of Education passed the District Wellness Policy on January 20, 2015.

This critical achievement is the culmination of many months of research, hard work and collaboration on the part of the Board of Education, NJPHK-Trenton staff and partners and wellness champions in the Trenton schools.

Marissa Davis, NJPHK-Trenton project manager said, “This is a step in the right direction, but by no means is the work over. Awareness, implementation and monitoring are in order to truly bring a culture of health and wellness to Trenton’s students and district staff. I am very excited to have the support of the Trenton Board of Education and that of the Family and Community Engagement department as we move this policy forward.”

The wellness policy addresses nutrition and physical activity and applies to all Trenton public schools. The policy provides guidelines governing the nutritional quality of foods and beverages sold and served on campuses and for school celebrations and school-sponsored events. Physical activity will be integrated into classroom and afterschool programs. The policy includes a Safe Routes to School provision, with the school district committing to assessing and, if necessary, making improvements to make it easier for students to walk and bike to school.

A District Wellness Council, with each school represented by one member, will oversee execution of the policy.

The next steps include the Culture of Health survey distributed to all district schools and creation of a Wellness Room in Joyce Kilmer Middle School.

Farewell, Dr. A.

photoIn December, Dr. Nwando Anyaoku, co-director of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Newark (NJPHK-N), started a new chapter of her life as medical director for Pediatric Medicine CHI Health System Alegent Creighton Clinic in Omaha, Nebraska.

In her new role, Dr. Anyaoku will develop and direct a network of pediatric primary care and urgent care centers across the Omaha metropolitan area.

“She was a tireless champion for the prevention of childhood obesity in Newark,” said Courtney Price, NJPHK-N project manager. “We are happy for her new venture, but she will be missed.”

Dr. A, as she is known, was director of General Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital/Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. She signed on as co-director of NJPHK-N in 2009 attracted by the Robert Wood Johnson philosophy of focusing on policy and environmental change. In that capacity, she spearheaded Let’s Move! in the Clinic, leading training sessions for clinics, practices and physicians. She also was an advisor to the Nestle Nutrition program in Newark Family Success Centers.

“She invested in the children of Newark— all ages, races and ethnicities. As a physician and recognized expert, she brought authority and passion to her work that left an imprint,” said Price. “She created a foundation that we will continue to build upon.”

Meet Shana Jarvis, NJPHK-Camden Project Manager

SJarvisShana Jarvis has a lot on her plate: a new position as project manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden (NJPHK-C), a new baby, plus classes at Temple University where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in the School of Health Education.

While some people might feel overwhelmed, Jarvis feels energized.

“I am so excited to be taking on a leadership role with NJPHK-C. The partnership has come a long way in Camden. So much progress has occurred under the leadership of Valeria Galarza, who was recently promoted to vice president of strategic expansion for YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties. I look forward to connecting with the work being done and continuing the forward momentum,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis has been with the YMCA of Burlington & Camden Counties since October 2013 as director of Public Health Programs. She managed the Campbell Healthy Communities CATCH program, Watershed Exercise on Bicycles (WEB) and Safe Places to Play initiative — all focused on getting kids physically active through exercise and fun activity.

A Philadelphia native, Jarvis always wanted to work with youth. She was a summer camp and afterschool counselor. “I wanted a career that allowed me to have a positive impact on children.” As an undergraduate at Temple University, she considered nursing and teaching, before looking into public health at the advice of a college advisor. “Public health was a great fit for my interests, combining health and nutrition, working with children; and teaching, advocating and leading programs to support healthy kids.”

While in college, she interned with The Food Trust in Philadelphia and then joined them full-time upon graduation. As a member of Eat Right Now—a nutrition education team—she helped teachers integrate nutrition education into their classrooms. She later led the Recreation Center Nutrition Education program, working with the City Parks & Recreation department to develop nutrition education and healthy cooking programs for afterschool programs and summer camps.

When The Food Trust received a grant from Campbell Soup to work on Healthy Communities, Jarvis crossed the Delaware to help develop a comprehensive nutrition education program in Camden. She found that experience most inspiring. “Starting a new program in a new city from the ground up gave me the chance to be deeply involved. From establishing new relationships, to developing curricula and evaluation methods, building and shaping something from the beginning has been a great experience,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis is passionate about Camden and the community. She looks forward to strengthening relationships and continuing NJPHK-C’s work in a sustainable and strategic way. “It’s an exciting time for the city. I’m glad to be a part of making life healthier for Camden’s residents.”

New Jersey Healthy Communities Network: A Comcast Newsmakers interview

Jill Horner speaks with Bill Lovett, Executive Director of the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, about the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network.

Leuze named “Healthy Kids Champion”

Published in the Star Ledger/NJ.com

Marguerite Leuze, special assistant for health services and nursing for the Newark Public Schools Office of Health Services, has received the “Healthy Kids Champion” award from the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Leuze received the award for her “dedicated and focused commitment to the children in the city of Newark especially those who are underserved and less privileged.” She was one of six community leaders honored for their commitment and contributions in the NJPHK-targeted communities of Newark, Camden, New Brunswick, Trenton and Vineland.

“It’s an honor to present the Healthy Kids Champion award to Dr. Leuze for her tireless advocacy and commitment to providing the specialized care she does in Newark,” said Darrin Anderson, deputy director of NJPHK.

“I feel privileged to have had the opportunity over the years to be able to make a difference in the Newark community,” said Leuze, who was honored Dec. 3 at the Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Conference in Edison, a day long conference on building healthier communities which was attended by more than 300 community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses and social workers.

Community Involvement Called Crucial in Fighting Childhood Obesity

Originally published in NJ Spotlight

Experts at conference in Edison note importance of tailoring efforts to target different social groups, coordinating public-health efforts

While there are signs that the decades-long rise in childhood obesity is turning a corner, a national obesity expert said community-based public-health efforts in New Jersey and other states could be key to continuing to decrease obesity among both children and adults.

It will take a sustained effort with a consistent message, as well as outreach tailored to target different social groups, according to Dr. William H. Dietz, the former nutrition, physical activity and obesity director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dietz noted that national surveys are beginning to show declines in obesity in young children, with one study showing a drop in the percentage of obese 2- to 5-year-olds from 12.4 percent in 2005-2006 to 8.4 percent in 2011-2012.

“I think we may be at the corner — I don’t think we’ve turned the corner,” he said.

He compared it with the effort to reduce smoking, which reached a 15-year-long plateau in the 1960s and 1970s before beginning a steady decline.

But there’s a major difference between the two public-health issues, Dietz noted, and it may make anti-obesity efforts more difficult: While opposition to smoking grew at a grassroots level, concern about obesity began with the federal government and has not sparked the same kind of community-level concern.

“People don’t feel immediately threatened,” said Dietz, adding who that many people have the attitude that, “ ‘It’s not me, it’s not my family.’ I think that’s the challenge — how do we build that kind of grassroots investment.”

It might help anti-obesity efforts to use terms like “health” or “wellness” to draw broader public support, Dietz said.

With federal funding for anti-obesity efforts unlikely in the near future, state and municipal-level public-health efforts will be important, Dietz said at a conference titled “Building Healthy, Equitable Communities” held yesterday in Edison.

He noted that the roots of obesity are complex and require a multi-pronged response.

Community groups can be more effective when they band together to promote ways to improve children’s health, Dietz said. He noted that existing efforts to promote activities that lower obesity are often not coordinated.

“The people who support breastfeeding are not the same people who support reduced screen time or increased physical activity,” Dietz said. “Building a coalition of diverse groups is really a significant challenge.”

There are persistent differences in obesity levels among different racial and ethnic groups. And the social factors that affect these obesity levels also differ among these groups, Dietz said.

For example, while obesity levels are higher among white people with lower incomes, obesity and income levels aren’t linked for African Americans. Such differences illustrate why public-health efforts will be more effective if they are geared toward different communities, he said.

A potential model is a former federal program, the VERB campaign, which ran from 2002 and 2006. It encouraged children aged 9 to 13 to engage in more physical activity. The campaign, which federal data suggests was effective, used separate marketing efforts targeting children from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“The messages were handcrafted by groups that represent those communities,” Dietz said.

Laurie Shanderson, assistant dean of the Richard Stockton College School of Health Sciences in Galloway, added that students preparing for healthcare careers need to understand these disparities. However, they often don’t, in part because they don’t study the historical roots of these differences, she said.

“They don’t have the same historical perspective or background to know how much things have changed, and to even identify certain problems,” she said. “The students we’re training right now don’t really identify health disparities as being an issue.”

Diana Autin, executive co-director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, said parents are key in building community coalitions to improve children’s health.

“If we provide parents with information and assistance and the skills and knowledge that they need to make good decisions, not only for their own children, but also in their community and also in advocating for policies, then we will have a very significant impact on making the changes we need to make,” she said.

Autin added that that it’s important that families become aware of opportunities that are already available to improve their health, including the free preventive care, such as annual physicals, offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Dietz said the ACA could also directly contribute toward anti-obesity efforts in the long term. Since the law encourages linking healthcare spending to improving people’s health, it could lead to federal funding for anti-obesity efforts.

Daniel F. Oscar, president and CEO of the Princeton-based Center for Supportive Schools, said that schools can play an important part in community-based efforts to improve children’s health. But he said public-health efforts suffer from continued racial, ethnic and economic segregation in schools, which remains a barrier in working effectively across different groups.

Autin said that integrating physical exercise with lessons about healthy behavior has been linked to improved test scores, but schools are often so focused on increasing class time for math and other areas measured by standardized tests that that they find it difficult to focus on health.

One area where schools could make a difference is in reducing the stigma attached to obesity. Dietz said this remains an obstacle to efforts to get the public to help combat the problem.

He said efforts to decrease this stigma could start with changing terminology. Rather than saying “obese people,” Dietz said it’s better to say “people with obesity,” which emphasizes that it’s a medical condition rather than an identity. Using “obese people” is similar to saying “cancer people” instead of “people with cancer,” Dietz said.

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, the state Department of Health, the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the American Academy of Pediatrics New Jersey chapter and the New Jersey Hospital Association hosted the conference.

Conference focuses on building healthier communities

Originally published in The Philadelphia Tribune

More than 300 attendees turned out for a conference focused on building healthier communities in New Jersey.

The New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) hosted the Building Healthy, Equitable Communities Conference on Dec. 3 at the Pines Manor in Edison, N.J. The conference focused on providing participants with tools and best practices to build healthier communities by helping to incorporate health equity into current policies and practices, thereby helping to lessen chronic diseases such as obesity and address environmental factors contributing to health disparities.

“Nearly one-third of children in this country are overweight or obese, leading to a plethora of health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol — issues that have been generally associated with adults in the past,” Dr. Darrin Anderson, deputy director of NJPHK, said in a statement. “By bringing together experts and community advocates to share practical solutions and best practices, we can make an even greater impact on the health of New Jersey families.”

Since its inception in 2009, NJPHK and its community partners have made great strides in implementing policy and environment changes aimed at preventing childhood obesity, including: assisting with the development of wellness policies and school wellness policies, renovating playgrounds, securing commitments from local corner stores to provide healthier choices, creating bike lanes, and co-sponsoring fun and fitness events.

“With continued collaboration among our partners, we can make a huge difference in reducing childhood obesity rates and ensuring that all of our children have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential,” Anderson said.

Community leaders, dietitians, teachers, school nurses and social workers attended the one-day conference, which was co-sponsored by the NJ YMCA State Alliance; Shaping NJ, New Jersey Department of Health; Family and Community Health Sciences, Rutgers Cooperative Extension; and the New Jersey Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.

Featured conference speakers included Dr. Dwayne C. Proctor, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Disparities Portfolio; and Dr. William H. Dietz, director, Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, Milken Institute of Public Health, George Washington University.

A panel discussion moderated by Mike Schneider, anchor and managing editor of New Jersey public television’s NJTV news program, examined the causes of health inequities and strategies communities can use to address the issue.

NJPHK also presented Healthy Kids Champion awards to community leaders for their commitment and contributions in the following NJPHK-targeted communities: Camden — Meishka L. Mitchell, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, vice president of neighborhood initiatives; New Brunswick — Michael G. Blackwell, superintendent of recreation in New Brunswick and executive director of “The First Tee of Raritan Valley”; Newark — Marguerite Leuze, special assistant for health and nursing, Office of Health Services of the Newark Public Schools; Trenton — Francis Blanco, chief of staff to Trenton Mayor Eric E. Jackson; Vineland — Stanley Burke, a longtime, dedicated community volunteer; and State Program Office — Barbara George Johnson, executive director of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College.

NJPHK is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The goal of the program is to convene, connect and empower community partnerships across the state in order to design and implement childhood obesity prevention strategies that support access to affordable healthy foods and increase opportunities for safe physical activity in the cities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, Trenton and Vineland.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is the largest private foundation in New Jersey and the nation’s largest philanthropy working to improve health care.

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