Illinois Health Department Offers Parents and Children the Best of We Can!®
Posted April 13, 2012
According to an article in the Trib Local, there's something for everybody at the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) and Community Health Center (CHC) in Waukegan. An active We Can! General Site since December 2010, LCHD/CHC host the We Can! Parent Program and CATCH® Kids Club four times per year. In the first session, a registered dietician from the organization taught 80 eager participants about childhood obesity, physical activity, nutrition, and screen time.
LCHD/CHC adapts different parts of the Parent Program to make it work best for site and participant needs. For instance, the community site caps enrollment in its Parent Program at 20 participants after garnering feedback from the initial program held a couple of years ago.
"We found once you have more than 20 participants, it can be hard to fully educate participants and facilitate the activities and discussions. We do a lot of facilitated learning where we present a topic and then participants partake in a discussion. With over 20 participants, it can be difficult to do that," said Christina Arnold, Program Coordinator for the Be Well Lake County Diabetes Program.
The health department heavily recruits for any program they hold—whether We Can! or another initiative. At outreach events, including health fairs and community festivals, We Can! programs are promoted to anyone who may be interested. LCHD staff then follow up with potential attendees to see if they are still interested and able to make the four-session commitment.
To encourage participants to attend each class, LCHD/CHC makes weekly reminder phone calls, "We treat it as a scheduled appointment for them to come in," said Arnold. The program also provides incentives for participants, including a $25 gift card for parents (if they attend three of four sessions) and jump ropes for children. Participants also are able to enjoy healthy snacks during each session.
In the room next to the parents, children take part in the CATCH curriculum. An outreach worker leads this program so the parents can learn and focus on their session. For younger children, volunteer staff will color healthy fruit and vegetable pages to keep them engaged.
Children also learn about physical activity, nutrition, and screen time with interactive games. One favorite is the MyPlate bucket game, where the children line up, get a card with a food item, and place the card in the proper food group bucket. Program staff adapt other activities for children from the CATCH curriculum.
The Lake County Health Department has six health centers within the county, and is currently teaching We Can! curricula in Highland Park, Ill. through a diabetes initiative at the North Shore Health Center. They hope to begin We Can! programming at the other five health centers in the future.
If you're wondering how you can apply LCHD/CHC's We Can! success, read more:
- Don't be afraid to modify the We Can! Parent Program. LCHD/CHC tailored the program to their specific participant and site needs. Consider using information you learn from the Tell Us What You Think pre- and post-session evaluations (165 KB) to help tailor your program to your community's needs and interests and plan future We Can! Parent Programs.
- Retention can be a major concern for community sites. This community site found a way to have parents and youth return week after week with weekly reminder phone calls, healthy dinners, and participant incentives. Incentives are a particularly great way to keep parents and children coming back. Approach local businesses who could partner with you to provide small items for your participants or reach out to your regional liaison to brainstorm incentive ideas.
- Find a way to keep children occupied in healthy activities while parents are engaging in programming. Often, parents cannot participate in the We Can! Parent Program if they have no childcare. Hosting a youth curriculum at the same time and place is a great replacement for a babysitter! There are many youth curricula to choose from, including Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active!®, CATCH Kids Club, S.M.A.R.T., and SPARK™. Contact your regional liaison or visit the We Can! website to determine the best fit for your needs.