Keeping people healthy

MSU Extension encourages healthy behaviors that help reduce food and health care costs by helping prevent chronic health conditions and providing safe environments throughout a person’s life span.

Improving nutrition and increasing physical activities in Michigan communities

Limited income and poor nutrition affect quality of life and can increase healthcare costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30 percent of Michigan adults are considered obese, and one out of every three deaths in Michigan is caused by cardiovascular disease, influencing the quality of life and adding billions of dollars each year in economic burden.

MSU Extension delivers affordable, relevant, evidence-based education to help residents in urban and rural communities stay healthy throughout their lifespans. Programs teach participants how to buy and prepare nutritious, budget-friendly foods and increase physical activity.

  • 79 percent of youth participants improved their abilities or gained knowledge about how to choose foods according to Federal Dietary Guidelines.
  • 79 percent of adult participants made a positive change in at least one nutrition practice, such as preparing foods without adding salt, or using the Nutrition Facts labels to make food choices.
  • 73 percent of adult participants made a positive change in at least one food resource management practice, such as planning meals in advance or comparing prices when shopping.

SNAP-Ed instructors provide education either through one time presentations or series. They often “partner” with local organizations to provide programming to their clients. In Gladwin County MSUE partnered with the following agencies or organizations in 2016:

  • New Dawn Shelter
  • District Health Department - Gladwin
  • Gladwin County Council on Aging
  • MMCAA (Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency) Head Starts in Gladwin and Beaverton
  • MMCAA Commodity outreach
  • Gladwin Elementary School Great Start Preschools
  • NEMCSA (North East Michigan Community Service Agency) Head Start - Gladwin
  • Beaverton Elementary School SPARKS
  • Beaverton Elementary School Backpack Program
  • Gladwin Intermediate School Backpack Program
  • 4-H Day Camp at Gladwin City Park

The following evidence-based curriculums were used in Gladwin County in 2016:

Show Me Nutrition – a curriculum for Pre-K through Jr. High – each level adds to previous instructions and exposes children to healthy food, physical activity, body image and media influence through instructions, activities and sampling. In Gladwin County we have been working with preschools and the Beaverton SPARKS after school program (1st – 6th grades).

Cooking Matters – includes both a nutrition lesson and cooking instructions. This has been co-led by MSUE Nutrition Instructor Coral Beth Rowley and Becky Perkins, who has been a volunteer cooking instructor for this program for several years.

Eat Healthy, Be Active – a USDA curriculum designed for adults to help improve understanding and practice of healthy food choices and preparation, eating well on a budget, and engagement in physical activity - healthy lifestyle factors - has been used with various audiences in 2016 as a series of lessons.

MSU Extension also contributed to the education of recipients of Project Fresh and Market FRESH.

Project Fresh – encourages participants of the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program to eat more Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables and works in cooperation with the WIC program which provides coupons for Michigan-grown produce at participating local farm and farmers markets.

Senior Project FRESH (Market FRESH) – encourages lower-income adults 60 and over to purchase (and eat) more Michigan-grown produce in season at local participating farm and farmers markets. MSU Extension works in cooperation with the Council on Aging which provides coupons through the state office for use at these markets.

Staying Healthy: A systems approach (Policy, Systems, and Environment)

MSU Extension nutrition programming has begun to engage with workplaces, schools, and childcare facilities to address policies, systems, and environments that directly influence the health of those who regularly use their services. The goal is to help them work toward self-selected goals that make the healthier choice the easier choice to make. When a system improves, it fosters healthier practices for those using that system, whether children or adults, which can lead to healthier lives.

In Gladwin County, we began work with facility directors at a large childcare facility. Using an online tool to help them assess the overall environment, we then provided support choosing goals to work on, making a plan, and providing various educational resources. The center directors are working on incremental improvements in the areas of nutrition and physical activity that will make it easier for staff and children to “make the healthy choice the easy choice” most of the time.

The childcare facility that Nutrition Program Instructor Coral Beth Rowley worked with over a five-and-a-half month period in 2016 put a policy in place for screen times, something they had previously started to practice but had never put in writing. They achieved “best practice” in this goal area as well as in the practice of having water available wherever the children were, both indoors and outdoors. They made strides in serving all meals family style, a goal they set and began to practice and will be continually working on. These were their three primary goals, but in addition they found they were improving other practices as they became aware of them throughout our ten visits. Many practices were improved, as they went from 39.6 percent to 52.4 percent achieving best practices overall in nutrition and physical activity and improved their levels of achievement in many areas. In activities supporting physical activity they went from 54.5 percent to 69.7 percent best practices achieved and in the nutrition area went from 24.5 percent to 40.8 percent best practices achieved by the time of their final assessment in October. The Assistant Director said she has now “started eating with the kids” and the Director stated that she is starting to “focus on improvement by policy” and is working on “best outcomes for the children”. They plan to do nutrition activities and tasting with the children and are interested in having MSU Extension come back and do something of the sort with the children in the future.

This childcare facility serves around 80 children on varying schedules and is currently piloting a preschool program for very young children. Many lives are affected by the practices that they encourage.

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