Vineland has one of the highest rates of chronic health diseases in the state. While preschools have served as a great avenue for health intervention in the community, delivering health promotion information directly to preschool parents has proved challenging. So, the Live Healthy Vineland team decided to take an unconventional approach and leverage pre school family workers as a conduit to families. “The preschool family workers already had direct access to the parents and caregivers on a regular basis and were better able to support their needs,” said Alysia Mastrangelo, PT, Ph.D., and Professor at Stockton University. “We just needed to equip them with the appropriate health education resources.”
The Strong Mothers for Strong Families (Madres Fuertes para Familias Fuertes) project officially kicked off its new effort during the summer of 2016 with focus groups that included preschool family workers, teachers, school nurses and other staff members. The innovative program provided training for frontline preschool staff on topics such as nutrition, physical activity, tobacco cessation and chronic disease prevention for children, parents, and caregivers. “We knew to be successful we had to expand our support to include more services related to basic needs and chronic disease prevention,” said Betsy Erbaugh, Ph.D., lead researcher for Strong Moms for Strong Families and Assistant Professor at Stockton.
Through the preschool family workers, hundreds of parents were educated on healthy living strategies, as well as additional social service programs available in the area. Monthly monitoring reports also were used to evaluate the effectiveness of specialized training with family workers and family advocates to enhance access to health information, and local health promotion resources for families with children enrolled in public, private and Head Start preschools.
While the program is still in its evaluation stage, an abstract on Strong Mothers for Strong Families was accepted for a presentation by Erbaugh, Mastrangelo, and Kelly Dougherty, Assistant Professor at Stockton at the American Public Health Association (APHA) Conference in Atlanta, November 4-8th. “We are excited about the program’s initial accomplishments and the additional exposure,” stated Mastrangelo. “Our goal is to expand the program to the surrounding communities in the future.”
For more information contact: Lisa Scheetz, Live Healthy Vineland/CCA YMCA, 856-691-0030.