ASHEBORO - Randolph Healthy Children is leading a two-day training event to roll-out a new program aimed at combating childhood obesity entitled, “SOAR at Preschool.” The training will take place on Wednesday, December 19th and Thursday, December 20th from 9 a.m. – 5p.m. at the Randolph County Health Department.
This program, SOAR at Preschool, has brought two leading universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and West Virginia University together with Randolph Hospital, the Randolph County Health Department and Randolph Healthy Children to create a new program that could be used nationally to combat childhood obesity.
The training will be for Randolph County Head Start staff, teachers, administrators, teachers from the Growing Place Child Care Center, Randolph County Health Department Child Care Health Consultants, staff from the Partnership for Children as well as regional and national representatives from Head Start.
“Through this collaborative effort, we have been able to create a program that has national implications,” said Kerry McKenzie, SOAR Coordinator at Randolph Hospital. “Attending the training will be representatives from the Regional Office of Head Start in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as representatives from the National Office of Head Start in Washington DC. For a community our size to be a part of a pilot program of this magnitude definitely reflects on the quality of the program that has been created and on the commitment of those community partners who have worked together to make this happen.”
The goal of SOAR at Preschool is to promote healthy eating and physical activity in young children in preschool settings. SOAR at Preschool is a pilot project that blends two existing well known and research based models: Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) and I Am Moving, I Am Learning (IMIL) as well as educating parents on four simple strategies to help reduce the risk of childhood obesity and SOAR to healthier lifestyles. SOAR stands for Slow down on fast food. Opt for water. Add activity. Reduce TV.
Through the SOAR at Preschool program local childcare facilities will have the resources to:
- utilize a system and tools to asses their own nutrition and physical activity environment and make changes that support healthy weight among children,
promote and increase the time preschool children spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity by providing plenty of indoor/outdoor active time and role modeling an active lifestyle,
improve the quality of structured physical activity movement experiences,
promote healthy eating in preschool age children by serving appropriate foods and role modeling healthy eating behaviors, and
reach out to parents to promote healthy weight behaviors at home.
SOAR at Preschool is one initiative being implemented by the Randolph Healthy Children. Randolph Healthy Children was formed by a grant from the Duke Endowment. The grant was to assist Randolph Hospital and the Randolph County Health Department, along with community partners, to implement a social marketing plan to address childhood obesity and overweight in Randolph County. The grant will implement a series of integrated core strategies aimed at targeting parents and caretakers of children six years of age and younger.
“Young people in Randolph County, like their peers elsewhere in North Carolina and in the United States, are experiencing rising rates of childhood obesity likely to lead to serious health problems now and as they age,” said Devin Griffith, vice president of Community Health & Staff Services. “There is a significant need to address issues of overweight and obesity in our children due to the link between these issues and negative health outcomes such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and overall poor physical and mental health. The percentage of overweight and obese children and adolescents in the United States has doubled in the past 30 years.
Data from the North Carolina Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveillance System indicate that children 2 to 4 years of age within Randolph County have a higher percentage of being overweight and for being at-risk for overweight when compared to children in this age range for the entire state.
“Based on the research and data collected we decided the greatest opportunity to curb the growing trend of overweight children was by targeting our interventions around children 6 years of age and under,” said Griffith. “Children 6 years of age and younger encompass two major points in childhood development that can impact healthy weight: 1.) the transition from infant to toddler feeding, and 2.) the changes in food options and physical activity surrounding the transition to school.”
Although this group of children comprises the focus of the program, their parents and caretakers are generally considered the primary target audience because of their control over their children’s food consumption and physical activity. This plan focuses on helping parents and caretakers balance diet and physical activity for their children in order to achieve and sustain a healthy weight.
Research also suggests that parents and caretakers can play an important role in the formation of healthy weight habits through showing concern for their child’s weight, monitoring child food consumption, encouraging healthy eating habits and being involved in the child’s physical activity.
The problem of childhood obesity, and the success of efforts to reduce and prevent it, has significant implications for the future health and wellness of Randolph County. “We find this innovative project to be promising and are proud to be working with The Duke Endowment to improve the health of our diverse children and families,” said Griffith.
The Duke Endowment provides grant money to not-for-profit hospitals and health care organizations in North and South Carolina. The Duke Endowment is a perpetual trust, established by the late James Buchanan Duke by the agreement dated December 11, 1924. Although Mr. Duke limited his backing to North and South Carolina, the trustees have sought, wherever possible, to encourage projects and programs of significance to the Carolinas and the nation.