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Get a kid’s eye view of having fun on a bicycle

Originally posted on nj.com

By Michael Mancuso

Children were invited to come out to the Greenwood Avenue Farmers Market in Trenton on Monday for an afternoon of bike safety and fun.

The Back to School “Bike Event” was sponsored by Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

“In celebration of the back-to-school season, we were thrilled to partner with GMTMA to bring this event to the community,” said Marissa Davis, project manager of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids. “Safety is an important part of healthy living; we want to make sure that children riding bikes know how to handle the bike and have the proper protection gear needed for a safe ride.”

Once outfitted with a properly-sized helmet and matched to a bike suited to their size, participants took to a course set up on an asphalt  parking lot where they could practicing stopping, turning, and other bike skills with help from volunteers including personnel from outdoor gear and sporting goods store REI Princeton.

The event also included Adult Giveaways of free reflective vests, helmets, lights, adult reflective bands while supplies lasted.

As part of the Boys & Girls Club Bike Exchange, families were able to purchase kids bikes starting at $5 and receive a free helmet.

Newark Tackling Obesity Among Preschoolers

Newark Head Start programs welcomed a new class of preschoolers in September, many of whom are already facing serious health issues. Among this year’s class of students in Newark’s nine preschools, childhood obesity is the second greatest medical need. Only asthma ranks higher.

Liana Rodriguez, Center Director at Early Childhood School-North at Gladys Hillman-Jones is determined to turn that statistic around by working with those who have the biggest influence on children’s eating habits—parents and guardians.

Rodriguez turned to Courtney Price, project manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Newark (NJPHK-N) for help in educating parents about healthy choices in meal preparation.

Price and staff from the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity will present an hour-long interactive nutrition workshop on November 17 at the school. Price hopes that this session will be the first in a series to raise awareness about healthy eating.

The workshop will feature food demonstrations, physical activity and hands-on activities to immerse parents into the learning. “We want to make the content meaningful and accessible to parents so they will take the knowledge home and make healthier decisions for mealtimes and snacks,” said Price. Noting that the workshop kicks off just before Thanksgiving, Price said the hope is to spark some thinking about different things to eat for the holidays and healthier ways to prepare traditional Thanksgiving treats.

The program builds on the principles of the YMCA’s Healthy U program that promotes healthy habits through good nutrition and physical activity and strong parental involvement.

The preschools host monthly meetings with parents and NJPHK-N hopes to be part of the agenda at future meetings to talk about nutrition and maintain an ongoing relationship with the schools around parent engagement.

“The administration places tackling obesity high on list. They recognize the need to reach the parents. In turn, parents want opportunities to be educated on issues surrounding health,” said Price. It’s a win-win for all involved—most critically the children.

New Brunswick Youth Get Physical at Healthy Kids Camp

swim safe camdenThis summer 17 New Brunswick children had fun and learned valuable swim skills through the Raritan Valley YMCA. The one-week Healthy Kids Camp for children ages five to 12 taught healthy eating and physical activity concepts through various fun activities. Campers enjoyed daily swim lessons, nutrition and cooking classes, creative arts and lots of physical activity, gardening, first aid and water safety.

The free program addressed a major need for New Brunswick children: increasing access to recreational facilities and programs that contribute to healthy lifestyles. The campers were referred by various social services agencies in the city and were transported to the YMCA.

“Without the provision of these services most would not have access due to a lack of financial resources and transportation,” said Gina Stravic, executive director of the Raritan Valley YMCA. The YMCA has been a local and national leader in aquatics and camping for over 100 years. For the past five years, the YMCA as leaders of the NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids-New Brunswick has focused heavily on the prevention of youth obesity through policy and environmental change. The camp served as an extension of the work of the Community Health Consortium for Central Jersey, a partnership between Saint Peter’s University Hospital and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. The goal of the group’s efforts is to improve the community health of Middlesex County through collaboration, program development and implementation.

“The staff of several great agencies came together towards a common cause to make a difference with the children of the community they serve,” said Stravic.

Funders included the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rutgers Community Health Foundation, USA Swimming, and Northfield Bank.

Recent Report Card Indicates NJ Somewhat Fitter than PA, DE & NY

Nearly 27 percent (26.9%) of New Jersey residents are obese according to a recent analysis by The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

That obesity percentage places New Jersey 41st out of 51 states and the District of Columbia. New Jerseyans are in slightly better shape than residents of Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York where the obesity rankings are 17th, 20th and 39th respectively. The bad news is that the obesity rate in all four states is trending upward compared to 2010.

The fact that over one in four NJ residents is obese is reflected in the rate of disease associated with obesity. The study shows that New Jersey ranks 28th in rate of diabetes (9.7%) and 30th in hypertension with a rate of 31.1 percent.

Lisa Scheetz, Director of Operations and Chief Operating Officer of the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA is optimistic because of efforts taking place across the state to promote healthy eating and help residents be more active. She points to programs such as the YMCA’s Healthy U and the healthy corner store initiative spearheaded by the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK) as evidence of successful interventions that are having an impact in Vineland and throughout New Jersey.

“Over 700 kids in Vineland receive extra physical education each day attending YMCA after school programs. As more kids get moving, physical activity will become a daily life habit,” Scheetz said. She also is hopeful that the food landscape in Vineland is headed toward change. “We have 25 corner stores in Vineland that are committed to stocking healthy snacks and food. Now when parents and children visit their corner store, more healthy choices are available to them.”

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NJPHK-Camden Project Manager Named South Jersey Magazine’s Woman of the Year

galarzaValeria Galarza, VP of Strategic Advancement for the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties and Project Manager for New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden (NJPHK-C) was recently named “Woman of the Year” by South Jersey Magazine. Among the hundreds of nominations received by the magazine were individuals, nurses to former business women.

Galarza was chosen for her tireless efforts in helping to improve the health of South Jersey’s struggling communities and their children. As part of her NJPHK-C role, she is charged with leading initiatives around creating environmental and policy changes that help reduce childhood obesity in Camden.

In partnership with Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) and in combination with various other community partners, NJPHK-C has focused on providing technical assistance to Camden City Public Schools in the implementation of its wellness policy and Breakfast-in-the-Classroom program; expanded school wellness policies to non-public schools; supported food access programs by providing knowledge, engagement and access to healthy foods through community gardens and nutrition education and expanded Safe Places to Play to six city parks.

Click here to read the South Jersey Magazine Article.

Valeria Galarza Woman of the Year

Originally posted in South Jersey Magazine

by Rachel Morgan and Liz Hunter; Photo by Jeff Anderson

Valeria Galarza (pictured) knows firsthand how important living a healthy lifestyle is—and she’s made it her life’s mission to impart this bit of wisdom on to South Jersey kids. This year’s Woman of the Year is the VP of Strategic Advancement for the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties, which includes the NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids-Camden (NJPHK-C), youth programs, public health programs, youth intervention, civic engagement and the Women’s Opportunity Center. Galarza also co-directs the NJPHK-C and helps spread the message of a healthy lifestyle for kids across the region, and is a new member of the Camden City Promise Zone Leadership Committee.

In Galarza’s previous role as program director and project manager of NJPHK-C, she was responsible for daily operations, most notably, advocating for and leading local policy efforts that supported physical activity and healthy eating in the city of Camden. And for Galarza, it’s personal.

“Improving the health of communities that have greater needs than others has always been dear to my heart because I grew up in such a community,” Galarza says. “My parents did the best they could to provide for my siblings and I and they pushed us to the best we can be. However, when you live in a community that doesn’t always support those goals, it’s hard for parents to make sure their kids get and stay healthy. I remember having to take public transportation to go food shopping in the next town over because that was the closest market to get fresh produce; and we didn’t have a car. I remember not being allowed to play outside because it wasn’t safe, so we would stay inside a lot—not realizing we weren’t getting enough exercise. I understand why getting and staying healthy in such an environment is challenging, which is why I am a health advocate.”

She also has big plans for the YMCA, a valued community resource. “I would love to see every community be served by our YMCA and to get to experience the delivery of our values: caring, honesty, respect and responsibility,” she says. “We have such dedicated staff that are committed to providing quality programs and experiences to children and families, which we take such pride in. For myself, my goal is to always advocate for healthy communities, no matter what the community.”

The Voorhees resident graduated with a bachelor’s in public health from Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and later earned her master’s in health education from St. Joseph’s University. She was also named Angel of the Year by the South Jersey Young Professionals Association (SJYPA), an honor bestowed upon someone who has shown an exceptional commitment to the betterment of South Jersey.

An Inspirational Kick Off to the Live Healthy Vineland Summit

BeforeweightlossFour years ago, Robert Dickinson smoked too much, ate too much and rarely exercised. In his words, he’d been a “rolly polly” kid whose weight continued to climb in his adult years. He managed to kick cigarettes on Valentine’s Day in 2011—his first day without a cigarette since he was 15. Two months later, his wife was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and she would die that November. Caring for his wife while holding down a demanding job, Dickinson had no time to think about what he was eating—he grabbed fast food or opened a can, whatever was easiest and most accessible. His weight climbed to 286 pounds.

Last year, Dickinson was promoted to Health Officer for the Vineland Department of Health. The new position prompted him to take stock. He wanted to set an example for the community, but thought, “Who would take an obese health officer preaching obesity prevention seriously?”

Biking PictureHe enrolled in the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, which is offered to Vineland residents through the Live Healthy Vineland initiative. Dickinson learned to count calories and fat grams and discovered the synergistic effect of combining physical activity while reducing caloric and fat intake. He unearthed his bicycle and took his first ride to fitness—a 1¼ mile trip to the produce store.

Today he bikes 75 to 150 miles a week and works out at the YMCA. He’s lost 95 pounds and 10 inches off his waist. He eats fresh fruits and vegetables and chooses fat free or reduced fat foods whenever possible. He views himself as a changed man.

Dickinson shared his story at the Live Healthy Vineland Summit on September 23 at Cumberland County College. His success was the inspiring start of the 2½ hour lunch time session. Participants included Cumberland County educators and social service and health care providers who shared their thoughts on how to create a culture of health. Their feedback will inform a strategic plan for sustaining health and wellness in Cumberland County.

Bob 2015 HOaThroughout his career, Robert Dickinson focused on the big picture of community health in terms of preventing the spread of disease and providing a healthy environment for community residents. Five years ago, he gave little thought to how personal lifestyle choices affect the health of the community at-large. Today he has a totally different view.

At the Summit, Dickinson asked attendees to advocate for Live Healthy Vineland and motivate others to make healthy life style choices and changes that will improve their individual health, keep them healthy and delay the onset of chronic disease. “There is no better gift you can give and there is nothing more rewarding than to see the positive changes in their lives,” Dickinson said.

New Brunswick Tomorrow Welcomes New Director of Community Health

Manny - NBTNew Brunswick Tomorrow (NBT) embraces ideas, partnerships and initiatives that move New Brunswick’s people forward. From supporting community development efforts to healthier living initiatives, NBT has made significant strides in changing the way residents think about and engage in a healthier lifestyle.

This fall, NBT welcomes Manuel (Manny) Castaneda as its Director of Community Health. In this new role, Manny will handle the management and implementation of health and social initiatives of Healthier New Brunswick, a collective impact approach, which includes the Live Well-Vivir Bien New Brunswick campaign. The campaign is designed to unify, promote and encourage participation in community efforts that foster a culture of health and wellness.

“I’ve lived and worked in New Brunswick for most of my life, so I am both proud and excited to help my fellow residents achieve better outcomes in the areas of health and wellness,” said Manny.

Manny has worked at community-based organizations and Rutgers University in various roles servicing the community, and has extensive client advocacy and case manager experience, with expertise in health-related, legal and benefit/entitlement areas. His previous roles include: statewide legal services manager for the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, editor, AIDS In The Law In New Jersey 2nd edition, Rutgers University case manager for the Robert Wood Johnson Pediatric AIDS Program and he continues to serve as an adjunct professor at Rutgers’ School of Health Related Professions.

This fall, Manuel, along with Monica Reyes, Manager of Communications and Development at NBT, will meet with local stakeholders and task force volunteers to help foster and build a mutual understanding of the healthier-living needs of residents and secure commitment to support efforts to improve the overall health of city residents.

“We’ve conducted community research, refined our strategic communications plan, and are currently working on the Live Well-Vivir Bien New Brunswick website and app, said Jaymie Santiago, Director of Program Operations, NBT and Co-director for NJPHK-New Brunswick. This is a great time for Manuel to join our team and help support campaign implementation this winter.”

Live Well-Vivir Bien New Brunswick is a collaborative, city-wide campaign supported by leadership team partners – New Brunswick Tomorrow, Johnson & Johnson, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and The City of New Brunswick – designed to promote and encourage participation in health and wellness resources.

Anderson Advocates for Transportation Equity at GMTMA Annual Meeting

20151023_122511“Is transportation a contemporary civil rights issue?” That was the question posed by Dr. Darrin Anderson, deputy director of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK), who served as the keynote speaker for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) annual meeting. Held on Friday, October 23, the event was attended by more than 150 individuals representing policy makers, transportation professionals and local business leaders.

GMTMA is a non-profit, public-private partnership dedicated to improving mobility and reducing traffic congestion in and around Mercer and Ocean counties. GMTMA provides information, administers programs and assists commuters and residents with rideshare matching, bicycle and pedestrian programs, rail and bus travel information and incentives for commuters.   NJPHK has partnered with GMTMA on on Safe Routes to School events, walking audits, and this year’s BikeFest at Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market which included bike safety training for children, free bike helmets, arm reflectors for adults and children, adult reflective vests, and a Boys & Girls Club Bike Exchange where used bicycles were sold for as little as $5.

During his remarks, Anderson contended that the United States Constitution sets forth the right to have good community health, which includes transportation. He also reflected back to the 1960’s Civil Rights movement indicating that in additional to racial equality, the movement was also about advocating for other social issues such as employment, affordable housing, equity, food access and public transportation. All of these issues are social determinants of health that prevent communities from reaching their full potential.

“Transportation is a crucial link to opportunity—connecting us to jobs, schools, housing, health care, and healthy food,” said Anderson. “Yet millions of low-income people, people with disabilities, and people of color live in communities where quality transportation options are unaffordable, unreliable, or inaccessible.”

“In order to ensure all communities have equal access to transportation, we need more advocates to take on this issue and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves,” concluded Anderson.

International Expert in Childhood Obesity Prevention to Headline December 2nd Building a Culture of Health Conference

Hassink photoDr. Sandra G. Hassink, President, American Academy of Pediatrics, will be the keynote speaker at the 4th Annual Building a Culture of Health in NJ Conference on Wednesday, December 2 at Pines Manor in Edison, NJ. She will speak on the social determinants of health and civil rights pertaining to food access and physical activity.

Dr. Hassink has focused her career on preventing and treating childhood obesity. She is a pediatrician at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children (AIDHC) in Wilmington, Del., where she founded the weight management program in 1988 and serves as director of the Nemours Pediatric Obesity Initiative. She is co-principal investigator for the Healthy Active Living for Families project, which promotes active healthy living for parents and families of young children.

Participants at this year’s conference also will be able to choose among six workshops focused on topics related to improving the health of NJ communities.

“The conference is about leveraging partnerships and identifying collective solutions in the effort to prioritize and build healthy communities,” said Darrin Anderson, deputy director of New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK). “This is an opportunity to learn from the doers who will be sharing emerging research, best practices and other community-based policies and strategies they are using to elevate awareness and positively impact the health of our communities.”

Sponsors of the conference include NJPHK, the YMCA, New Jersey Department of Health, Shaping NJ, Get Moving-Get Healthy New Jersey, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter.

Conference hours are 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. For questions or to register, click here: https://ce-catalog.rutgers.edu/coursedisplay.cfm?schID=57863&check=1 or contact Dalynn Knigge at 848-932-7315 or knigge@rutgers.edu.

425 Greenwood Ave, Trenton, NJ  08609 | info@njhealthykids.org | 609-278-9622 | Fax 609-278-9678
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