Date of Defense:
April 20, 2018
Child and adult inactivity, screen time, and obesity rates have been rising over the years . The Faribault/Martin County (MN) community health department states that 33 percent of residents [2-3]. The increase in screen time has resulted in less physical activity, more time to snack or eat outside of regular meal times, and weight gains by both children and their parents [4-5]. The health department is concerned that this will result in increased health concerns such as diabetes, asthma, and a general inability to walk or run for extended periods of time.
The focus group for my field experience consisted of the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) participants in a five-county region covered under the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Partnership grant. The grant is provided by the Minnesota Department of Health with the purpose of expanding opportunities for active living and healthy eating . These families have access to healthy food vouchers through the program but may struggle to afford other groceries.
Most of my field experience was spent working with local businesses to partner with WIC to promote less screen time, healthier eating habits and increased physical activity. I was tasked with making a healthy families coupon booklet to assist in reaching this goal.
The key components of the booklet were the coupons for free, healthy items like bananas at local grocery stores, a free round of bowling or a pass to a local pool. Families are looking for affordable ways to spend time together or to buy healthy products. I worked with area businesses in all five counties to provide free or reduced-price admission or product in our booklet. I spent a lot of time researching businesses in each county, contacting management and explaining the project and benefits of participating. Almost all of the businesses were willing to support the booklet in some form. It was important to have support in each county because many of our families were unable to travel to all of the businesses in the book and we wanted to make sure everyone could benefit from the coupons.
I also included any free recreation or park areas in each county. This took a substantial amount of my time as some counties have much better websites and information about parks and recreation than others. I also looked at each city in each county to list parks, trails and beaches that could be used for recreation. I felt it was essential to include as many of the free, child-friendly areas as possible since our target audience was families with small children. Finally, I included interesting statistics about screen time, activity time, healthy eating, and other facts that families may find useful. I wanted families to know why we thought the booklet was important, and why many of the businesses supported WIC and affordable, family fun. The facts were meant as reminders to families, so their attempts to reduce screen time and increase healthy behaviors are reinforced.
This was a very time-consuming task, as there was a lot of research and follow-up time to complete all three areas included in the book. My goals were to learn more about the resources that each county has, locate free and inexpensive activities for families and produce something that could help families in need. I was not ultimately in charge of producing the booklet, only providing the materials that would be needed for the booklet.
I worked with the Faribault/Martin County Human Services organization, which administered the SHIP grant that provided resources to Faribault, Martin, Watonwan, Jackson and Cottonwood counties. Shortly after my field experience was over, the grant was re-approved but only for Faribault, Martin and Watonwan counties. SHIP is run through the health department but is funded with grant money from the state and is subject to specific rules. The SHIP grant coordinator had one part-time worker who assisted in many of the projects. Many of the projects through SHIP were in partnership with other departments, such as WIC in this case. I was able to meet community health workers from many counties and build relationships with departments that I may work with in the future.
This SHIP grant project (and therefore my field experience) was not a research-based project. As explained in the introduction, the idea behind the book came from research, but there was no evidence of research around a coupon book. The result of my efforts was over 25 coupons for area grocery stores, recreation areas and movie theaters that families could use, as well as a detailed resource to free parks, beaches and recreation areas in each county. The disappointing part of this experience was that the booklet was never printed because of the grant dropping two counties after my project was complete.
This was my first opportunity to work with a local-level community health organization. I learned that there are as many obstacles in funding county work (and grants) as there is in education. Money is always an issue so each idea needs to be thoroughly vetted before implementation. I also learned that reaching the right in a business could be difficult and I had to be very persistent when trying to contact the correct person and following up on messages that I left.
I loved the idea of a coupon book when we did this project in 2012. As time has gone on, I believe something available online or via an app would be much more beneficial to most of our families. Many families have access to the internet, at home or at a public library, and a smart phone and may prefer to use an app or the internet instead of a physical coupon book. It may be very beneficial to put the coupons and information into an easy-to-access app, along with additional WIC information for the clients.
I also would like to see SHIP sponsor some family activities in the area that are free or low cost. I know they focus part of their grant on work-based health, but I think a family night at the area water park, with healthy food and fun activities, would encourage families to spend more active time together.
This experience was about increasing awareness and opportunities to our low-income families about engaging in healthy activities. We wanted to meet their needs and give them additional resources about making healthier choices.
- Rhee K. Childhood overweight and the relationship between parent behaviors, parenting style, and family functioning. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. 2008;615:12-37.
- Human Services of Faribault and Martin Counties. FMW SHIP. Statewide Health Improvement Programs. 2010 fmchs.com/ship.php
- Minnesota Department of Health. Minnesota Student Survey. Minnesota Department of Health. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/mss/countytables/index.cfm
- NelsonJA, CarpenterK, ChiassonMA. Diet, activity, and overweight among preschool- age children enrolled in the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children (WIC). Prev Chronic Dis. 2006;3:1-12.
- Lissak, G. (n.d.). Adverse physiological and psychological effects of screen time on children and adolescents: Literature review and case study. Environmental Research., 164, 149-157.
- Minnesota Department of Health. The statewide health improvement partnerships. Minnesota Department of Health. http://www.health.state.mn.us/ship/