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A Sprint to Success

Working in the public sector means coming face-to-face with a number of obstacles. Tight timelines, limited, funding and staff turnover are just some of them.

The Children’s Council in Watauga County, North Carolina met these obstacles and succeeded in spite of them. With only six months from start to finish, they were able to help both childcare staff and the county’s preschool children adopt healthier lifestyles as part of a larger community campaign called the Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project.

The Children’s Council has been participating in the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) program as part of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project. The Council’s involvement in NAP SACC started when the executive director, seeing a need to work with the children and families in Watauga County on obesity prevention, applied to become a NAP SACC implementation site. The Council was selected to be a site. But change happens. The executive director left The Council.

This change in leadership did leave The Children’s Council with even less time to meet their funding deadline, but that didn’t discourage them. Lee Marshall picked up the torch as the staff member leading the NAP SACC program, and ran.

Marshall’s job is to make healthy living fun and accessible to the childcare providers and children in Watauga County. She has built a strong partnership with the Appalachian Regional Health Care System and the local health department. Their involvement in the project has been the equivalent of a vigorous workout - a heart-rate elevating, whirlwind of activity from beginning to end.

After doing their NAPSACC assessment, developing their action plan and attending required training, the staff was ready to go. The assessment showed that there was a need for child care providers to be better role-models for healthier behaviors. They decided to use social support, role-modeling and accessible physical activity as a way to make the most impact in the shortest amount of time.

To start, The Children’s Council started providing wellness center passes to local child care providers as well as offering a Saturday morning workout class. Marshall reports seeing differences in the personal behaviors of the child care providers. The providers started eating with the kids and giving up sodas. Adjustments are also being made in how the child care providers work with the children. Structured and purposeful play is now part of the children’s schedule every day. The teachers are engaging the children in active play instead of just turning them loose outside. This is a big change from unstructured activity - to activity with a purpose.

Personally, Marshall has gotten caught up in the momentum of the project. She has been inspired both as a staff member of The Children’s Council and as a working mother. She is taking better care of herself and is an inspiration for others around her. In true role model fashion, she is right there exercising, sweating and having fun along side the other workout class participants.

Marshall encourages this same mentality and commitment in child care providers as well.

Marshall is taking her inspired message out into the community as another key component to the Council’s efforts. She is targeting organizations that cater to parents and child care settings. One such group is the local Head Start programs. She speaks to parents about healthy lifestyles and encourages families to eat together and get outside to be active together.

As she travels around town she has noticed billboards, ads, articles in the newspaper and on TV. The message to Eat Smart and Move More is everywhere. The media presence, a key part to supporting and reinforcing the messages, are part of the larger Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project community-wide campaign.

“It is making everyone in the community aware of what we are doing,” Marshall said. It helps her realize that The Children’s Council is really part of a much larger plan.

Marshall is sad that the program is coming to close so quickly. The improvements she has seen in her organization and in herself have been wonderful. But as the time wraps up, she wants to leave with a parting motivational message from her personal lessons-learned.

1) Childcare providers and working mothers need to take better care of themselves.
2) Everyone, adults and children alike, need to take time to exercise and pack a healthy lunch.
3) Even though you are caring for others, you still need to take time to care for yourself.
4) Success can be achieved even with limited time and resources.

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