Welcome to Chapter 3 of the Parent Program online training: Parent Program Overview.
Chapter 3 of this online training is designed to provide you with an overview of the Parent Program. You will learn about the target audience for the program, the objectives of the program, how the Parent Program curriculum was tested, the key content areas, and how you can evaluate your Parent Program.
Overweight in children is a growing problem, not just in America, but around the world. Research indicates that parents are asking for more information about how to make healthy nutritional choices for their families. The We Can! initiative responds to this request. Relatively few programs target parents and the home environment for the prevention of childhood overweight. We Can! makes parents and primary caregivers its key target audience.
A key tenet of We Can! is that parents and primary caregivers have a strong influence on children’s behavior and, therefore, can play a major role in teaching children healthy eating behaviors. Parents are the food and activity decision-makers in the home. Parents can also model healthy nutritional choices and teach children about making their own healthy food choices.
In Chapter 4, we will further explore the reasons We Can! has chosen parents and primary caregivers as the main target audience for its programming.
The reasons why the number of overweight children and adults has increased over the years are as follows:
The We Can! Parent Program was developed after a review of the scientific literature. It addresses five behavioral goals to support parents in helping their families maintain a healthy weight:
When you share these behavioral goals with the parents in your program, you may want to point out that We Can! is not a weight-loss program, which has been a common misperception of the program. Although the behavioral principles for weight loss are similar, weight loss requires more rigor and intensity in order to be successful.
In 2005, NIH launched We Can! in 14 locations with an initial version of the Parent Program―the We Can! Energize Our Families: Curriculum for Parents and Caregivers. The 14 locations are now referred to as the 14 Founding Intensive Community Sites. The original Parent Program curriculum consists of six sessions, each 60 minutes long. It is a unique curriculum designed to help community leaders support parents in reaching the five behavioral goals.
Over the course of that first year, these 14 sites implemented the program 22 times in total, reaching 174 parent participants. The programs were assessed in order to learn more about changes in parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding healthy eating and physical activity. Detailed results from this assessment are available in a Progress Summary Report on the We Can! Web site.
An initial assessment of the We Can! Founding Intensive Community Sites' programs reported that in terms of nutrition, parents significantly increased their avoidance of foods that were high in fat or contained added sugar, and improved their monitoring of portion size in the home. They also increased their attention to setting rules around healthy eating for their families.
Also in terms of physical activity, parents made significant advances:
Parents significantly improved their attitudes toward limiting screen time, and reduced their family’s screen time.
In addition to demonstrating the impact of the We Can! Parent Program on healthy eating and physical activity, these initial programs provided a window into the needs of parents. We learned that parents want:
However, facilitators found that it was difficult for some parents to attend all six sessions. In order to address that issue, a shorter, four-session version of the program was developed. Both programs have the same content; they are just packaged differently to provide community leaders with the option of conducting either four 90-minute sessions or six 60-minute sessions with parents.
This online training is an introduction to the four-session curriculum that is in the Leader’s Guide. Those who are interested in using the six-session Curriculum for Parents and Caregivers can find it in the We Can! Energize Our Community: Toolkit for Action, which you will hear more about in Chapter 9.
The parent program sessions are fun and hands-on, and provide parents with easy and practical ideas to feed their families lower-calorie, lower-cost, tasty, convenient, and healthy foods that children will enjoy. The program also provides resource materials and tips from the field to help parents keep their children active and moving instead of glued to the TV or computer screen. In a nutshell, the Parent Program is all about learning how to eat well and move more. It offers parents an ideal setting in which to share ideas and support each other through both the challenges and successes of preventing overweight in their children.
Each of the four sessions in the Parent Program follows the same format: a Warm-up, Activities, Stretch Break, more Activities, Closing Segment, which is designed as an opportunity for participants to pick one healthy eating tip and one physical activity tip to try between sessions, and a session Wrap-up. Two of the sessions include an optional quick and easy Food Demonstration.
Before we move on to examine the four sessions, let’s spend a moment looking at the Leader’s Guide. The first step in using the Leader’s Guide is to learn how the sessions are organized.
The first few pages of each session serve as your roadmap and describe the:
Each session activity is separated by a wide, orange bar. Instructions to carry out the activities are laid out in an easy-to-follow, numbered sequence. Throughout the Leader’s Guide, you’ll notice italicized blue text that you can paraphrase or read to the participants. This text always starts with the word SAY. You’ll also find boxes with Leader’s Notes throughout the sessions that offer helpful information and teaching suggestions.
We Can! offers several tools to help you evaluate the Parent Program:
Participants complete the pre- and post-program evaluations during the first and last sessions of the Parent Program. These tools are designed to help you assess the changes in the parents’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions specifically related to eating well, physical activity, and screen time. The pre- and post-program evaluations will help you gauge your program’s impact upon parents and plan future programs. You’ll hear more about how to use Tell Us What You Think and Tell Us What You Think Now during Program Sessions 1 and 4.
We Can! offers more downloadable evaluation and tracking tools for other We Can! programs on the We Can! Web site. We’ll introduce those in the last chapter on Summary and Resources.
Here are the sessions included in the four-session curriculum that you will learn more about in Chapters 4 through 7 of this online training:
We Can! and the We Can! logo are trademarks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).