“The Healthy Recipe of the Week campaign helps residents make healthy food choices. It’s another way we promote the We Can! message within Armstrong County.”
— Kay Owen, Project Director, HEALTHY Armstrong
Armstrong County, which calls itself “the heart of Western Pennsylvania,” has had a soft spot for We Can!-based programming since it became the first official We Can! County.
Like many rural communities, Armstrong County has the challenge of spreading recreational efforts and opportunities over a large geographic area—in this case some 664 square miles. But leaders are up to that challenge, especially when it comes to helping local children maintain a healthy weight.
Prompted by data showing alarming rates of overweight among children in their community, the ACMH Foundation rolled up its sleeves and got down to work with We Can! The formal launch of this first We Can! County, in September 2007, was a high-energy event that included music and physical activity for the several hundred school-age children who attended, and featured a variety of speakers—including Melissa McGowan, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. At the event, McGowan presented Armstrong County Commissioners with the first ever We Can! County road sign. Armstrong kept the momentum going by hosting a 2K walk for families two days following the launch. Representatives from all of the organizations partnering in the HEALTHY (Healthy Eating Active Lifestyles Together Helping Youth) Armstrong coalition, a countywide, school-based initiative, also participated in the event (see below for more details on the coalition).
Read more about the County’s implementation of We Can! programming below. You can also skip ahead to each of the following topics by clicking on them.
Among its many successes influencing individual and family behavior change in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, HEALTHY Armstrong has promoted We Can! in the following ways:
Healthy Recipe of the Week: From October 2008 through the fall of 2009, HEALTHY Armstrong will be cooking up a countywide campaign to help residents understand the importance of proper food choices, nutritional content, and portion control. The group partnered with several grocery stores throughout the county, offering weekly healthy recipes which are featured in a prominent grocery display. The intent is to make people aware of the We Can! program, let them know they have easy access to healthy food choices, and give them a way to prepare those foods.
Web Visibility: The HEALTHY Armstrong Web site, launched in April 2009, allows visitors from across the globe to learn about We Can! through HEALTHY Armstrong, allowing them access to We Can!-based resources with the click of a mouse. You can see for yourself at www.healthyarmstrong.com
As of spring 2009, We Can! programming was underway in seven elementary and middle schools in Armstrong County.
Based on the We Can! CATCH curriculum, the school program began as a pilot effort in Elderton Elementary School and was so successful there that it expanded to six other schools in Armstrong County. The program includes in-classroom, after-school, weekend, and other activities, including:
Site coordinators report that several local high schools have expressed interest in the curricula, and will be working with them to see how best to get students and their parents involved.
As mentioned earlier, HEALTHY Armstrong is a coalition comprised of many partners, including the following:
Other community partners include The Armstrong Trail, Greater Armstrong County YMCA, Belmont Complex, Penn State Cooperative Extension, and Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center. On a side note, representatives from the UPMC Health Plan also lead We Can! efforts in nearby Pittsburgh. Read more about their efforts.
The coalition’s mission is to “…improve the health of families in the community and to help children maintain a healthy weight through improved nutrition and increased physical activity.” These are two key We Can! messages, and the coalition’s work is based on We Can! curricula for youth and parents.
From the first day as a We Can! county, Armstrong County has gotten hearts pumping about the program by reaching out to the community and others through a number of events and activities:
Kay Detrick Owen
401 Ford Street
Ford City, PA 16226
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