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PROMOTING HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Health is important for everyone. Illness can affect individuals and families not only physically, but emotionally and financially. We know there is a need to promote good health through prevention, and that there are those who need help when illness strikes. United Way strives to make health care accessible and affordable in our communities. That’s why we support local programs that promote healthy lifestyles, provide counseling services, home health care, children’s health clinics and drug & alcohol rehabilitation services regardless of a person’s ability to pay.
The World Health Organization defines good health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
United Way is helping to lead health and wellness efforts in western Connecticut. Each year, we fund and support key health and wellness services in the region, including visiting nurse and home health care, alcohol and drug treatment programs, healthy food pantries, medical and well-child clinics, hospice care, behavior health services for adults and children, and mental health services.
But increasingly, sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition are leading to health crises in our communities:
- More than 30% of the US adult population and 17% of children and adolescents (ages 2—19) are considered obese. If current trends continue, 43% of the population will be obese by 2018.
- Obesity and its related health issues – diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, depression, stroke and arthritis - threaten to cut lives short and overwhelm our medical system. For the first time, a generation of children could be worse off than the generation before them.
Prominent voices, including the US Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association, have issued a call to individuals and communities to address America’s health challenges and pour resources into prevention and wellness.
Obesity is a pattern of excess eating, poor nutrition and inadequate exercise. Early intervention is the key to establishing healthy eating habits and active lifestyles that will last a lifetime. Through our Strong Heart initiative, United Way is partnering with key community health and education leaders to encourage healthier lifestyles for children – and their families - in fun, kid-friendly ways:
In greater Danbury
UWWC has teamed up with over a dozen Danbury organizations – including Danbury Hospital, the City of Danbury and the Regional YMCA – to eliminate many of the barriers that hinder healthier lifestyles, such as the lack of access to parks and walking trails, lack of knowledge about the importance of exercise and good food choices, and the inability to purchase healthy foods due to limited budgets. Together we’re generating awareness of obesity issues and advocating policy changes that help cultivate healthy communities (ex. increase access to healthy foods, implement worksite wellness programs, influence school food contracts to include more healthy choices, etc.).
To improve the health and fitness levels of Danbury students, we and the Coalition for Healthy Kids are rolling out the SCRAM (Students Can Run And Move) physical and nutrition after-school program at Title 1 Danbury elementary schools. The 24-week program features healthy snacks, physical fitness activities and nutrition lessons as well as an effective parent education component. At the end of the 24 weeks, students show improvement in physical fitness testing, are more knowledgeable about good nutrition and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. In addition, these healthy behaviors are reinforced at home.
To increase access to healthy foods in Danbury, UWWC is a supporter of the Danbury Farmers’ Market Community Collaborative’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) initiative. From July until October, Danbury City Center runs a farmers market. SNAP allows patrons to use their food stamps at the Market, providing dollar for dollar matches to double buyers’ ability to purchase healthy produce.
Stamford Childhood Obesity Task Force
UWWC is one of many partners in this important task force, which is coordinated by Stamford Hospital. The group - comprised of 30 local organizations including the City of Stamford, the YMCA, educational organizations and Stamford Public Schools – provides a forum for partners to share information about what they’re doing to address childhood obesity issues, and works to promote the KIDS' FANS healthy lifestyle message of 5-2-1-0 to the general public:
Each day, children and their families should:
- eat 5 fruits and vegetables
- have 2 hours or less of screen time
- enjoy 1 hour or more of physical activity
- consume 0 to almost no sugar-sweetened beverages
UWWC funds the “I’m Moving, I’m Learning” initiative at Childcare Learning Centers. CLC was one of the first Stamford preschools to offer the program to more than 1,000 children every year. Each day, “I’m Moving, I’m Learning” provides 30 minutes of structured exercise activity for Toddlers and 60 minutes of structured exercise for Preschool students, as well as an additional 60 minutes of unstructured exercise time for both groups. The program has expanded with UWWC assistance to include events and workshops for parents and staff, cooking classes, dance classes, and nutritionally-balanced meals and snacks for the children.
In New Milford
Health Promotion Resource Center
In partnership with the New Milford Hospital Foundation, UWWC funds the Health Promotion Resource Center at the Candlewood Valley Pediatrics clinic, which serves 70% of the young children in New Milford. The center works closely with the families of children identified as obese or at-risk for obesity. Families are offered health information and guidance through demonstrations and classes and computer-based learning. The center will measure resulting outcomes of this intervention for 2 year olds and those entering kindergarten.
Sarah Noble Intermediate School Walking Project
In 2006, UWWC teamed with local businesses, medical personnel and the 5th grade teachers at Sarah Noble Intermediate School to help combat childhood obesity among New Milford school children. The program educates students about the importance of daily physical exercise and good nutrition. Registered dieticians teach the classes about the food pyramid, serving sizes and healthy food choices, and local business people join the students at least once a week to walk with them during recess. According to their pedometers, the participants log over 50,000 miles every 4 weeks! The program has been so successful it was recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics at its October 2011 convention.