Steps to Health
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Reducing Childhood Obesity with Steps to Health
Some elementary students will be making healthier food and drink choices this summer vacation as a result of their participation in Steps to Health during the school year. Steps to Health is a 9-session nutrition and health education program offered by N.C. Cooperative Extension in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms in selected schools with 50% or more of students receiving free and reduced lunch. The programs also align with the grade level learning objectives.
Obesity and related chronic health problems are prevalent in North Carolina with two-thirds of adults considered overweight or obese, based on data provided by N.C. Cooperative Extension specialists. North Carolina ranks 13th in the nation for obesity. Eating habits developed in childhood can lead to poor adult habits. Statistics show that only one in four children eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetable each day and almost half spend two hours watching television each day.
Steps to Health is designed to change this trend by educating and inspiriting children to make healthier food and drink choices and increase their physical activity. Based on pre and post evaluations from participating Catawba County students, 66% of the students showed an increase in their knowledge of nutrition with the greatest change seen in the number of children who learned the importance of drinking more water and less sugary beverages and selecting calcium rich dairy products. Additionally, 53% of the students reported making positive behavior changes including eating more fruits, reading nutrition labels, and becoming more active with less screen time.
Steps to Health was developed by Family and Consumer Science Extension specialists at NCSU and taught by 4-H or Family and Consumer Science county agents on staff with Cooperative Extension. The program is funded by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education, or SNAP-Ed. Steps to Health is offered in 56 counties in North Carolina and reached 5376 children in the last school year. In Catawba County, participating schools were Banoak third grade classes and second grade classes at Oxford and Claremont Elementary schools. Lyle Creek second grade will be added as a participating school for the 2015-16 school year, pending available funding.
In addition to Steps to Health, Cooperative Extension offers other programs to encourage and educate youth about healthy living. Snack Makers 4-H Club is a special interest 4-H club focused on nutrition and cooking for youth age 8 and older. The club meets monthly during the school year on a Saturday morning in Newton. In addition to participating in the club meetings, members are encouraged to complete related project books and participate in the 4-H presentation contest which also provide opportunities to learn and apply information about nutrition and health. Through the club programs, project work, and competitions youth develop skills that enable them to prepare healthy, less expensive options to restaurant and fast food meals at home. 4-H Summer Fun classes, such as Kids in the Kitchen and Focus on Fitness are short-term day camp programs which also encourage physical activity and teach skills in food preparation. To learn more about Steps to Health or other youth nutrition programs offered by Cooperative Extension, contact Donna Mull, 4-H Agent, at 828-465-8240 or firstname.lastname@example.org.