Can Stock Photo / mandygodbehear
Can Stock Photo / mandygodbehear

Janet Peterson & Katie Sours: It takes a village

Youth are the future of our community. One in four people living in Yamhill County is under the age of 20. One out of three Yamhill County children are overweight or obese — not unlike trends we see nationwide. Kids who experience overweight or obesity are more likely to experience chronic illness, miss more school days, have poorer academic performance, and experience poorer health as adults compared with their peers.

As a community, we have a wealth of tools to improve health outcomes for children. One way we can support the next generation is by providing youth opportunities, education, space, and time to practice healthy living so they can experience better health now and later. Working together on health outcomes directed at improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and facilitating behavior change among youth and within families is a win-win-win situation: A win for our kids, a win for our community and a win for our future.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Janet Peterson is associate professor of health and human performance at Linfield College, and vice president of WOC. Janet enjoys hiking, backpacking, climbing mountains, kayaking, biking or walking her dogs with her husband, Jay.

The benefit of a collaborative community approach to address health-related concerns is not a new concept. We know that social and physical environments, such as family engagement, learning support, safe sidewalks and accessible green space play important roles in a child’s overall health — but we can also support a child’s health journey by forming partnerships among families, schools and community-based organizations such as local businesses, health clinics, universities, cultural organizations, faith-based programs and others.

Many studies have documented the effectiveness of community collaborations in child health. For example, the Population Reference Bureau produces a bulletin dedicated to encouraging the healthcare industry to work in collaboration with the community for improved health outcomes. In the 2006 publication they report statistics that support a community based intervention program to improve health outcomes related to undernutrition.

Guest Writer

Guest writer Katie Sours is the program director of the WOC programs and the SNACK coordinator. She received her BS in Chemistry from Linfield College and a Masters in Public Health from Boston University. She works to connect local people, ideas, and services supporting personal and community well-being.

Likewise, the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the effectiveness of community engagement (in policy and practice) in advancing a child’s health.

We also know that kids who feel supported by their communities in health and wellness goals feel more connected, have increased confidence, and better social skills — which may lead to increased volunteerism, activism, awareness of resources and services and feelings of personal ownership in that community’s well-being. An added bonus: Kids who give back to their communities are more likely to practice other healthy behaviors.

We argue that a coordinated community approach is necessary and effective for preventing and treating overweight and obesity in children. Civic engagement in child health benefits the community overall.

The Student Nutrition and Activity Clinic for Kids (SNACK Program) is a community-based organization that offers personalized healthy lifestyle support to kids and families in Yamhill County. SNACK is offered through the Western Oregon Center for Pediatric Therapeutic Lifestyle Change (WOC), a nonprofit organization with the mission of reducing childhood obesity rates in Yamhill County.

WOC partners with local organizations to connect kids and families with existing health resources in Yamhill County. We asked several of our community partners to weigh in with their thoughts about the components of successful community approaches to child health. Their responses were connected by four core themes: Family, Opportunity, Diversity and Education.

Core Theme No 1: Family. Many studies have reported that a child’s health is rooted in family and home life, and supported by the surrounding community. Jeff Sargent, YCAP Executive Director, agrees with this idea: “A child needs a healthy environment of supportive adults, good nutrition and a stable home to have the best chance to succeed in school and in life.”

Access to education about healthy nutrition and regular physical activity is a cornerstone of child’s health journey — and this is boosted tremendously by family involvement. Kaitlin Scheid, SNACK intern and Linfield College pre-nursing student, maintains that, “Activities that are available to a variety of people can have a positive impact on the well-being of a family.” Adds Renee Crank, McMinnville Farmers Market Manager, “If [a child’s] family comes to these events and they build experiences and joy together, then they see this is important to their family and it is even more solidifying as a permanent belief system.”

The SNACK Program encourages family involvement wherever possible. Our clinical-based nutrition education sessions are family-centered and customized to a participant’s home life and family values. Our hope is that every child in our program will become happier and healthier with their family.

Core Theme No. 2: Opportunity. A child needs access to an array of healthy activities to successfully make beneficial lifestyle changes. Matt Richard, SNACK Intern and Linfield Exercise Science student, asserts that, “In order to have a positive effect on a child’s health, there needs to be availability of resources. Through these resources, children can form friendships and habits for healthy lifestyles”.

Heather Miller, co-owner of Local Flow Health Bar in McMinnville, agrees: “A ‘healthy’ community provides education, resources, and support which in turn strengthens the next generation to do even better.”

SNACK participants are provided various opportunities to practice healthy behaviors in the community, such as monthly cooking classes and passes to McMinnville Parks & Recreation programs at the Community Center and Aquatic Center. Denise M., SNACK program graduate (age 10), likes the opportunities our community has to offer. “I like this community...McMinnville has a lot of trails and places to exercise. The Community Center also provides services to encourage a healthy lifestyle such as...gymnastics (classes).”

Crank suggests that the absence of community involvement may leave kids feeling disconnected from the larger network of people and resources around them. She adds that kids are more likely to “get the exposure or education they need to make healthy choices” when they have the support of the larger network around them, including their schools, churches and doctors, among others.

Having health care providers work and volunteer alongside community partners allows greater opportunities for kids and families to get that exposure. Dr. Bill Koenig of Physicians’ Medical Center in McMinnville, says: “Physicians have the best interests of our community in mind when it comes to our patient populations. Programs like SNACK bolster the services clinicians provide by maximizing and increasing availability of additional health resources, and by providing encouragement to folks striving to make health-focused lifestyle changes.” SNACK provides its nutritional education sessions in the pediatric clinic of Physicians’ Medical Center in McMinnville. Working in this setting encourages daily collaboration between SNACK and providers at PMC, who can bring patients by during the regular medical appointments. Note: Any child ages 6-18 living in Yamhill County can join the SNACK program regardless of where they get their medical care.

Core Theme No. 3: Diversity. A community approach to child health allows for increased access to healthy living for all people, regardless of income status, race, gender, or age. “The more community partnerships join together, the more programs we can offer to the community,” says Jodi Anderson, Kids on the Block (KOB) program assistant manager. “We are able to provide services to a wide-range of people with (community) partnering.”

The SNACK program serves all children and families of Yamhill County. We acknowledge the value and dignity of each individual, and commit to fostering a healthy environment that honors diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Core Theme No. 4: Education. The SNACK program brings many community partners to the table in an effort to improve child health, including Linfield College interns, who provide hands-on nutrition education to SNACK participants. The college students gain real life experience and the families have increased support and knowledge for making healthy changes — win-win-win. Kendra McSheridan, SNACK intern and Linfield College Exercise Science student, says, “It is really important, especially in a town that is so close to a college like Linfield, that the students are involved in community programs. Not only can we (college students) teach what we have learned in our classes, but we can be role models for the children in the community.” SNACK utilizes a range of evidence-driven curriculum including 5-2-1-0, MyPlate, Coordinated Approach To Child Health (CATCH), and SMART Goals to provide nutrition education and physical activities that kids and families can incorporate into their lives.

Yamhill County is on the cutting edge of providing coordinated community-based programming to improve child health, says Dr. Tony Biglan of Oregon Research Institute, and author of The Nurture Effect: How the Science of Human Behavior can improve Our Lives and Our World. He states that programs such as SNACK are “part of a larger effort to enhance the health of all the people in Yamhill County”. Yamhill County has numerous opportunities for community partnerships in the quest for child health. We need to keep our momentum going in order to maximize the success of our programs and provide opportunities for kids to build healthy futures. Healthy kids, healthy communities, healthy futures.



Web Design and Web Development by Buildable