HEAL Appalachia grant helped kids at Carver Rec Center learn about family medical history, healthy habits


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) Appalachia, a community collaborative between Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and East Tennessee State University, is designed to combat obesity levels in the Southern Appalachian region. The 2013 HEAL Appalachia Symposium will be held at Marriott MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport. The day-long event will feature three keynote speakers, breakfast and lunch and the announcement of the 2013 micro-grant recipients.

Carver Recreation Center (CRC), a 2012 HEAL Appalachia grant recipient, expanded  an already existing program called “Family Health Ways” to promote healthy habits like exercising and studying family history to learn how to prevent disease.

“We have a Family History Recorders class that encourages the kids to explore their family’s medical history,” said Wenny Elrod, programs coordinator at CRC. “If they stayed with the program for at least six months and studied four or more generations we rewarded them with a free t-shirt.”

Studying family history not only allowed the kids to explore their heritage, but also provided a foundation for ETSU Quillen students to come in and teach the kids how to maintain healthy eating and exercising habits to prevent suffering from the same health problems their ancestors had.

By August 2012, 42 children and 55 adults were participating in the “Family Health Ways” program which also includes the Peddle Pushers Bike Club and the Friendship Walkers.

“Every Monday we have the Peddle Pushers Bike Club,” said Elrod. “The kids will come with their families to bike around a quarter-mile track. They go around the track up to 10 miles sometimes.”

This weekly activity is not only a great exercise opportunity, but also brings the families together to spend quality time together. Friendship Walkers walks around the track every morning, Monday through Friday, 8 to 9 a.m.

“Our goal was to make this an intergenerational program,” explained Elrod. “We wanted to include the parents and other family members so these healthy habits could become a lifestyle at home, not just a once-a-week activity.”

CRC will be reapplying this year for a larger grant to continue the growth of the “Family Health Ways” program.

In order to first receive a grant from HEAL Appalachia, an organization must to apply with a proposed program that reflects HEAL Appalachia’s Call to Action, the 5-2-1-0 message, and focuses on the four key areas of a person’s life that facilitate change: where a person learns, works, heals and worships. The 5-2-1-0 message stands for five or more servings of fruits or vegetables, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one hour or more of vigorous exercise and zero sugary drinks, more water and low-fat milk.

Those in attendance of this year’s symposium will have the opportunity to learn more about 5-2-1-0 and other programs designed to combat childhood obesity. Three key note speakers, Heidi Kessler, a nationally-certified school nutrition specialist, Stephanie Cihon, Corporate Director of Community Relations and Advocacy at ProMedica, and Ron Fink, School Nutrition Program Director for Bristol Tennessee City Schools, will address the crowd before the 2013 grant recipients are announced.

This year 19 micro-grants will be awarded,

To attend the 2013 HEAL Appalachia Symposium Preregister online at www.healappalachia.com/symposiumregistration.

About HEAL Appalachia

HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) Appalachia was established in 2008 as a collaborative effort between Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) to build momentum in the fight against childhood obesity in Southern Appalachia. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents over the past 30 years. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and emotional issues related to poor self-esteem. Healthy lifestyle habits can lower the risk of obesity in children, and stem the risk factors associated with it.  HEAL Appalachia believes that childhood obesity is an issue that cannot be solved by one initiative, organization or even one community. However, as a community we can work collaboratively to develop, implement and promote solutions that work within that community’s unique culture.

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