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Quinnipiac University and the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center Partner to Promote Health in Hamden and Wallingford Schools

By Lisa Seaberg on 11/30/2011

HAMDEN & WALLINGFORD, CT (November 3, 2011) - Rates of childhood obesity, and related risk factors for chronic disease, are at unprecedented levels, and rising throughout the U.S. and here in Connecticut. To help reverse this trend, Quinnipiac University and the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center have been partnering with Connecticut schools in Hamden and Wallingford to bring nutrition education and physical activity into elementary school classrooms. This project has been supported by the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, LLC.

"The trends that we are combating are national trends - even global trends,” noted Dr. David Katz, M.D., MPH, FACPH, FACP, Director of the Prevention Research Center. “But in public health, we say 'think globally, but act locally.' We are delighted to be partnering with Quinnipiac University and Anthem to take local action - and improve the health, and potentially the future, of children right here where we live!"

This partnership has introduced two health programs developed by Katz to some schools in these districts. Nutrition Detectives™ is a colorful, animated program that entertains students with a “supermarket spy” theme while teaching them to use five “clues” to be choosy about the foods they eat. ABC for Fitness™ uses a set of creative teacher-led “activity bursts” to get students moving for at least 5 minutes at a time over the school day, adding up to 30 minutes of daily exercise in the classroom. The programs are available free of charge from the Turn the Tide Foundation, and are already taught in many other school districts across the country.

With funding from the foundation, the team has used a “train the trainer” approach to apply the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center’s expertise in offering the programs in other school districts. The Prevention Research Center trained faculty and students in the Quinnipiac University School of Health Sciences, who then trained teachers and additional students to deliver the programs. Quinnipiac University partnered with selected schools in Hamden and Wallingford to offer the programs to their third and fourth grade students. The Quinnipiac University faculty and students taught the Nutrition Detectives™ program directly to students, and guided teachers in offering the ABC for Fitness™ program in their classrooms. The Prevention Research Center provided guidance in assessing the programs’ effectiveness.

The results of this one-year pilot study are quite promising. Students who took part in the 90-minute Nutrition Detectives™ program had at least a 25 percent improvement in their ability to identify healthful food choices based on the program’s five “clues.” Students who took part in ABC for Fitness™ activity bursts for a few months showed significant gains in certain measures of fitness, including core strength and upper body strength. Teachers said that ABC for Fitness™ provided a structured way to introduce physical activity into the day, and felt that the program positively impacted students’ attitudes towards fitness.

Students looked forward to activity bursts as a way to be imaginative and have fun. As a secondary benefit, they became more aware of how their bodies work. We were tremendously pleased by the response to the programs,” said Martha Sanders, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy for Quinnipiac University. She noted that this initiative has given inter-professional teams of university students who are training for health-related careers – such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant, nursing and physical therapy – the chance to play a direct role in health promotion during their academic training, and that they have received thank-you notes from elementary school students who told them how much they enjoyed the programs. The Nutrition Detectives™ program has now been incorporated into the Hamden Public Schools curriculum, and other school districts throughout the state have contacted the university to inquire about the programs. “This approach ensures that our work will be sustained in the coming years,” noted Sanders.

About the Wellpoint Foundation and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation

The WellPoint Foundation and its affiliates that include the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation support programs and organizations that are making fundamental improvements in America's health care system. In 2009, WellPoint Foundation and its affiliated foundations committed more than $14.7 million in grants that benefit communities across the nation. The foundations' combined assets exceed $130 million, making it one of the largest corporate foundations in the United States.

About Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac University is a private, coeducational, nonsectarian institution located 90 minutes north of New York City and two hours from Boston. The university enrolls 5,900 full-time undergraduate and more than 2,000 graduate students in 53 undergraduate and more than 20 graduate programs of study in its School of Business, School of Communications, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, School of Law, School of Nursing and College or Arts and Sciences.  Quinnipiac University consistently ranks among the top regional universities in the North in U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges issue. The 2009 issue of U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges named Quinnipiac as the top up-and-coming school with master's programs in the Northern Region. Quinnipiac also is recognized in Princeton Review's "The Best 376 Colleges." More about Quinnipiac University...

About the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

The Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center (PRC) was established in 1998 through funding from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). One of 37 such centers nationwide representing academic/community partnerships, the Yale-Griffin PRC is engaged in interdisciplinary applied prevention research in collaboration with community partners, federal, state, and local health and education agencies, and other universities. The goal of the PRC is to develop innovative approaches to health promotion and disease prevention that will directly benefit the public’s health, first locally, and then nationally. More about the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center...

About the Turn the Tide Foundation

The Turn the Tide Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit foundation founded in 2007 to address America’s troubling health trends of rapidly rising rates of obesity and diabetes in both the adults and children, and increasing rates of heart disease and other chronic diseases in adults. The Foundation’s mission is to: develop, evaluate and disseminate creative, practical strategies in real-world settings for empowering individuals and families to achieve optimal nutrition, robust good health, and sustainable weight control; and work tirelessly to devise a robust array of defenses that people can use to protect themselves from the threat of obesity and attendant chronic disease. More about the Turn the Tide Foundation...

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