HEAL Appalachia grant teaches first-time parents how to prepare kids for life-long health


BIG STONE GAP, Va. – 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, Tenn. The day-long event will feature three keynote speakers, breakfast and lunch and the announcement of the 2013 micro-grant recipients. Mountain Empire Older Citizens, Inc. (MEOC), a 2012 micro-grant recipient, was able to use the grant money to facilitate a nutrition and wellness education project for young parents and their children.


“Our Healthy Families for Southwest Virginia program provides first-time parents with the information they need to make good decisions for their families,” said Janie Dockery, MEOC Director of Children’s Services. “We provide home-visiting services and parent groups focusing on child health and development, parent/child interaction and early learning.”


Although MEOC was originally founded to provide very basic services to aging citizens, community needs led to the development of the MEOC children’s department. Thanks to the HEAL Appalachia grant, the Healthy Nutrition and Living Project (HNLP) gained the needed funds to help teach parents how to make the right choices when it comes to eating right and maintaining an active lifestyle.


“HNLP has allowed families to learn more about budgeting, eating right and cooking with healthier recipes,” explained Dockery. “Parents have also learned that play is an important way to help their child’s development and it can also be good exercise.


MEOC works with children and parents prenatally until the child is age five. Participants in HNLP receive a manual filled with helpful information on calorie counting, reading food labels and easy exercise for the while family. Cooking and exercising demonstrations and a fall festival also highlighted the HNLP supported by the HEAL Appalachia grant.


In order to first receive the grant, an organization must apply with a proposed program that reflects HEAL Appalachia’s Call to Action, the 5-2-1-0 message, and also 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.


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

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