Tag Archives: health

MSU Extension educators to collaborate with the Michigan Department of Education for smarter school lunches

Michigan State University Extension will be collaborating with the Michigan Department of Education on the recently awarded 2014 USDA Team Nutrition grant. MSU Extension educators across the state will be working directly with 50 schools to conduct Smarter Lunchroom Assessments in the school’s cafeterias. Schools that participate will receive a small financial incentive to complete 10 activities in the cafeteria. The MSU Extension staff members that are leading this partnership include Dawn Earnesty, Sheilah Hebert and Becky Henne.

The evidence-based activities are designed to equip schools with tools that improve children’s eating behaviors, and improve the cafeteria environment and food offerings. Thirty-five of those schools will also be given the opportunity to receive additional support from MSU Extension staff to implement a Healthier School Environment Toolkit. The toolkit will include resources on Coordinated School Health Teams, Healthy School Action Tool Assessment, Local School Wellness Policies, Smart Snacks legislation and other evidence-based strategies such as taste testing, working with student teams, healthy meetings, and adult and peer modeling and coaching to make healthy choices.

MSU Extension staff will receive specialized training on conducting Smarter Lunchroom Assessments, a program designed by the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.

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Filed under Accomplishments, Nutrition

Teaching wellness online with grant from NIFA

Dawn Earnesty, one of our educators for Michigan State University Extension in the Health and Nutrition Institute, took the lead in creating an online nutrition education course called My Way to Wellness. On August 18, Dr. Jean Kerver, a specialist within the Health and Nutrition Institute, received news that our multilevel approach to worksite wellness would be receiving funds ($147,000) from NIFA, as part of the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grants Program.

If you haven’t heard about it already, My Way to Wellness is an opportunity for individuals to learn through self-paced learning modules that include the following subjects: personal goal-setting, nutritional needs and physical activity, building a healthy MyPlate, energy, picking the best portions, healthy habits for a healthy life and more. Although a healthy lifestyle is important for those of any age, making positive choices in terms of health and fitness as adults is crucial in determining many factors. Eating well reduces the risk of chronic disease, promotes energy and ultimately affects an individual’s weight and the way he or she feels.

Because the My Way to Wellness course is offered online, it is easy to accommodate to any schedule. Participants can complete the program at ease in the comfort of their own homes or in personal settings.

The convenience and accessibility of the program made it a prime candidate for the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Grants Program. This fills a serious need because, according to the USDA, “Many individuals and families living in rural areas and communities experience disparities related to health and well-being…the opportunity to receive health information, or engage in health promotion activities is often limited…” This program will provide easily accessible, research-based information to those constituents.

The grant will provide an opportunity to provide a comprehensive worksite health promotion program with a personalized online component for individual Shiawassee County school district employees using resources developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MSU Extension.

Reaching our audiences where they are has always been a goal of MSU Extension, and it’s exciting to see our educators get additional resources to help them do that.

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Healthier meetings lead to a healthier workplace

Meetings are a necessary part of our workday. We often talk about making our meetings more productive and less time-consuming, but have we ever thought about making our meetings healthier? Our Michigan State University Extension Health and Nutrition Institute is working on that.

MSU Extension educator Dawn Earnesty has been recently trained as a Work@Health certified trainer through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Dawn is piloting the CDC’s new comprehensive program that uses the CDC health scorecard to assess the health of a worksite. The scorecard includes 125 questions focused on health topics such as organizational supports, tobacco control, nutrition, physical activity, weight management and stress management. Based on a business’s scorecard results, Dawn works with health committee members made up of its employees, training them to work with leadership to make healthy program, policy and environmental changes within the worksite. Through the CDC program, Dawn will be engaging five local businesses to become trained in September. She’ll work with additional businesses in the future.

One way to improve overall worksite health is to improve the health of our meetings – both at internal and external sites. We spend nearly half of our waking hours at work with many of those hours spent in meetings and conferences. By adopting healthy meeting guidelines, MSU Extension can help to create an environment that supports employees’ and stakeholders’ efforts to eat well and be physically active.

The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) in the Center for Science in the Public Interest provided recommendations to improve the health of in-person and virtual meetings. The guidelines include general recommendations and specifics related to beverages, food, physical activity and sustainability as well as tobacco-free guidelines. They also include recommendations for a standard healthy meeting or a superior healthy meeting. Meeting hosts can make gradual improvements to reach the higher standard.

NANA provided the Healthy Meeting Toolkit that you can also share with partners that may host meetings. Organizations, institutions and companies have the opportunity to take the NANA Healthy Meeting Pledge to adopt healthy meeting practices through the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Having healthy meetings, conferences and events helps to create an environment that supports employees and members in their efforts to eat well and be physically active. As we make gradual changes as an organization, in the future we can look at the opportunity of taking the pledge ourselves.

In the meantime, let’s watch for opportunities to incorporate these healthy practices in our meetings. It’s a great model for us to recognize that when we’re doing educational programming, we’re telling others what they should do and how they should do it. Yet, if we’re not demonstrating the same good practices that we’re suggesting others follow, it cuts into our credibility with them. Let’s look for those occasions not only with our dietary choices but also with programming in physical activities that make for a healthy lifestyle.

If you know of a business that’s interested in a healthier worksite or just want to know more about promoting healthier worksites, contact Dawn at wilcoxd4@msu.edu.

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MSU makes a healthy investment in Flint

On Tuesday this week, Deanna East, coordinator for District 9, and I were invited to attend an announcement in Flint that featured Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon; Marsha Rappley, dean of the College of Human Medicine; Neal Hegarty, vice president of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; and Mike Brown, emergency financial manager of the city of Flint. Together, they announced a new initiative by the MSU College of Human Medicine that not only will double the number of medical students who complete the third and fourth years of their medical education in Flint area hospitals and clinics, but also will hire new faculty and assign them to the Flint “campus” for research and outreach services. MSU has pioneered a model of developing strong teams focused on particular health research needs with the development of a team of faculty who focus on Parkinson’s disease at the Grand Rapids campus. The plan is to repeat this in Flint, partnered with the area hospitals, and with a large investment from the C.S. Mott Foundation, perhaps narrowing down to two groups, each focused on a particular area. The area of health science research they plan to pursue is yet to be determined, because the college wants to engage the Flint community in helping to identify the needs that they feel need to be addressed.

 This kind of investment is exciting for any community. For the Flint community, it’s even more valuable as the area continues to rebound from the severe hardships they have encountered following a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs in the area. Over the past decade, the only job sector in the area experiencing growth was the health services arena. A research enterprise based in Flint will only help to further accelerate that kind of growth.

 So why were Deanna and I invited to attend? We are fortunate to have a medical dean in Dean Rappley who understands the value of having professional educators and paraprofessionals embedded in the community to help translate research findings into practice – by consumers and by health professionals. And she realizes that MSU Extension is well equipped to serve as a key partner in that translation. Where this takes us is uncertain, but it really helps to reinforce the importance of our Health and Nutrition Institute in positioning us to help do what we do in Extension – translate research into practice. And with these kinds of investments at the university level, we are even better positioned to attract new investments in Extension to help us realize our mission in this area as well.

 There’s a lot to be done yet, much to be determined, but MSUE is invited to be at the table as the College of Human Medicine works to understand how they can have an impact in Flint and greater Genesee County. And we are ready.

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The Michigan WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project brings encouragement and hope to women

Sometimes knowing you have the power to improve your situation through hard work and determination can give you the courage to get you through financial hardship. There’s a program that’s empowering women to find that inner strength while learning about nutrition and gardening in the process.

 Since 2001, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has administered the WISEWOMAN (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation) program to empower women living in low-income situations to make healthy lifestyle choices. In 2008, Michigan State University Extension in Ogemaw County piloted the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project, which was coordinated by Helen DeFlorio, MSUE Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) program instructor. The project added a gardening component to the WISEWOMAN program. It was such a success that the MDCH contacted Diane Rellinger, Extension educator, to pursue options for expansion. In 2010, five other counties joined Ogemaw County in the program – Antrim, Charlevoix, Crawford, Missaukee and Otsego – and 24 women participated. Diane provides overall program and budgetary coordination for the six counties.

 The MDCH received a $52,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and partnering with MSUE, it used the grant to expand the project. The grant allowed the purchase of gardening supplies, plants and fencing. It provided for educational resources, farmers market registration fees, signage, gardening workshops, travel dollars for the participants to get to classes and the farmers markets, and vendor supplies, such as tents, tables and promotional items. MSUE SNAP-Ed, MSUE Master Gardeners, the MDCH, the Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency, District Health Department #2 and District Health Department #10 work together to make this project possible.

 Says Diane Rellinger, “This project was a great example of transformational education. It provided a network of support that created enthusiasm and positive behavior change. We saw women bond together and get excited about their health, their new gardening knowledge and the opportunity to increase their incomes through selling their own produce at local farm markets.”

Patti plans for gradn opening

Patti McGee makes plans for her farm market grand opening.

 Patti McGee developed a garden to sell produce at next year’s grand opening of her new McGee Family Farm Market. Patti’s goal is to live off the income generated from the market.

 Teresa Norwick grew vegetables at the Otsego County Alternative Landscaping Demonstration Garden. Through the grant, she was able to rent a plot and begin a garden.
Teresa Norwick poses with her new wagon.

Teresa Norwick was able to rent a plot and begin a garden through the grant.

 Both women learned a great deal about gardening and nutrition.

 MSUE Master Gardeners instructed the women in gardening procedures and encouraged them to keep a gardening journal. Teresa learned to use lasagna organic composting. The name comes from the layering method used in the process. Both Teresa and Patti helped build their own hoop houses to extend the gardening season. Jack Middleton, retired MSUE Otsego County Extension director, guided the hoop house building and also installed drip irrigation.

 The WISEWOMAN program emphasizes making healthier food choices, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and being more physically active. The SNAP-Ed nutrition education series provided eight lessons based on dietary guidelines and tailored the lessons to this age group (ages 40 to 64). The gardening efforts provided increased opportunities to be physically active. Women reported losing weight and feeling better due to their dietary changes and increased activity.

Teresa stockpiles organic lasagna ingredients.

Teresa Norwick stockpiles organic lasagna ingredients.

 According to Rebecca Fleis, MSUE Otsego County program associate, “The amazing thing about the project is the immense blessing a little seed funding can have in the lives of women. Often participants were in very difficult times in their lives financially; the opportunity to be part of the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project brought encouragement and hope for their future.”

Teresa Norwick and RebeccaFleis

Teresa Norwick (left) and Rebecca Fleis, Extension program associate, stand in Teresa’s hoop house.

 Master Gardener coordinators, Cydney Steeb in Charlevoix County, Lora Freer in Ogemaw County, and Ed Doss in Otsego and Crawford counties, provided gardening education and ongoing support, and Master Gardener volunteers also lent their expertise to designing and growing healthy gardens. SNAP-Ed staff members Lori Eccles, program associate; Megan Rapelje, program instructor; Susan Warren, program associate; Rebecca Fleis and Helen DeFlorio provided nutrition education classes to encourage healthier food choices and provide instruction in using and preserving the garden vegetables grown by the WISEWOMAN participants. Steve Fouch, Extension educator, provided training on how to take produce from the garden to the farm market. 

 Key partners at the MDCH were Robin Roberts, WISEWOMAN program manager, and Viki Lorraine, WISEWOMAN program intervention specialist, along with the lifestyle counselors at the local health departments who identified program participants.

 These are some powerful testimonials. They will be even more powerful if we’re gathering evaluation data that can help us to quantify the effect this program is having on the health and financial well being of participants.

 To learn more, go to http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132–240962–,00.html.

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Infant feeding curriculum now available in Spanish

The Infant Feeding Series curriculum (TIFS), which was developed here at Michigan State University (MSU), has been available for use with women living in low-income situations who are pregnant or new mothers to assist them in developing healthy infant feeding practices. The lessons were developed based on research with white and African American mothers. Recently, MSU graduate student Tara Fischer, worked with Hispanic mothers and peer counselors to demonstrate that the curriculum is appropriate for use with Hispanic women. Pat Benton, Children, Youth, Families and Communities program leader; and her staff helped locate those participants. Celina Wille, Extension educator, helped with the Spanish translation, and the Michigan Nutrition Network assisted with funding. The curriculum and handouts in English and Spanish are available at: http://nursing.msu.edu/tifs/curriculum.asp. Mildred A. Horodynski, Ph.D., R.N., and a professor in the College of Nursing; and Beth Olson, Ph.D., assistant professor and Extension specialist, are principal investigators on the TIFS project team. They have recently revised the TIFS curriculum to assist mothers feeding infants throughout the first year, and are completing the research to demonstrate efficacy of the curriculum, in collaboration with Colorado State University. We look forward to seeing that new curriculum.

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Michigan Nutrition Network reaches young Homer students

Youngsters in Homer are learning how to eat healthier, exercise more and grow their own food thanks to a collaborative program between the Homer agriscience program and the Michigan Nutrition Network. Read more about how this partnership has yielded great results.

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Food, Nutrition

Gladwin school menu gets a mini-makeover

Students in the Gladwin school district are getting healthier, fresher foods on their lunch menu while farmers are getting another outlet for their produce. Talk about a perfect partnership! Thanks to Kable Thurlow, MSU Extension agriculture educator, school administrators are taking advantage of a new program that encourages districts to buy local. Kable tells the story beautifully in this news clip.

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Filed under Agriculture, Farming, Food, Nutrition

Social Justice project yields Hometown Heros

Once an idea gets started, you never know where it might end up. Such is the case with the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) Social Justice project. Doak Bloss, the Access to Health coordinator at ICHD that we named as an MSUE Key Partner in 2008, and Renee Canaday partnered with MSU Extension team members Dionardo Pizaña and Karen Pace to help ICHD employees and community members become Social Justice Facilitators. Marvin Cato, CYFC program leader, and Kimbirly Bodfish, CYFC associate program leader, got into the act, too—they are among the 30 people who participated in 12 days of intensive training to strengthen their skills in facilitating educational sessions around health inequities and social justice within the health department and throughout their communities.

As a result, the Social Justice Facilitator Team has the skills and tools required to engage in difficult, but necessary, conversations about health and equity. One participant said the training “provided a concrete way in which I can participate in changing the systems of injustice that are so prevalent in our society.”

It’s a great project made even better by the fact that the team received the 2009 Hometown Health Hero award from the Michigan Public Health Week Partnership on behalf of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The award recognizes individuals and organizations for maintaining and improving the health of their local communities. The team is being recognized for addressing health equity and social justice in authentic collaboration with the community it serves, and helping build the foundation for a healthy community and state.

Next, the group will train 15 health department employees and five community members. Dionardo and Karen will continue to provide consultation while Kimbirly, Marvin and others will facilitate upcoming sessions. We look forward to hearing more great news about the changes and impacts this program is making.

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Filed under Awards, Nutrition