Healthy U combats childhood obesity through nutrition education, physical education and family involvement. The program partners the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey with the NJ YMCA State Alliance and its 37-member associations. Together, the grant funds three programs: The Healthy U YMCA Afterschool program, The Healthy U YMCA Early Childhood Education Program, and the Healthy U School-based Program.
Healthy U uses the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum to educate and support environments for healthy eating and increased physical activity. Although Healthy U is a program to help prevent obesity, it also leads to improved academic performance and reduced illness and behavior issues. Healthy U ensures that children and families are provided with environments that encourage positive behavior toward physical activity and healthy eating.
Sue Cornell, Healthy U Director for the NJYMCA State Alliance, oversees the statewide program. “What’s different about Healthy U is the focus on changing behavior through environmental and cultural change and education,” Cornell said.
The Healthy U afterschool program has just completed its ninth year. Over 400 YMCA afterschool childcare programs have implemented the CATCH curriculum into their daily program benefiting about 18,000 youth and their families. Children engage in moderate to vigorous physical activities at least 30 minutes each day and learn about nutrition through weekly lesson and activities.
The Healthy U Preschool program is part of 80 YMCA sites, reaching over 4,500 three-to-five-year old children. Like the afterschool program, preschoolers experience games and physical activities daily and nutrition education.
Both programs reach out to parents with tip sheets that suggest ways for families to be active and eat healthy.
The Healthy U School-based program exists in 70 schools across the state with 40 more to be added by the end of 2018-2019 school year. The Healthy U program helps schools develop a coordinated school health plan and incorporates the CATCH curriculum and coordinated school health plan into physical education, the classroom setting, the cafeteria, and throughout the school community. The goal is to have everyone in the school working together through a common language, modelling, and communication. The program also educates and encourages families to make good choices and lifestyle changes.
According to Cornell, “The secret for scalability and sustaining Healthy U is the strength and support of the School Wellness Team. We want to ensure we build strong relationships between the Y and the schools. Ultimately, the messages and change will spread out to the communities.”
For more information about Healthy U, contact Sue Cornell.