Good Changes are Happening Everywhere in the Motor City!

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Posted April 13, 2012

Engaging parents in the We Can!® program is the very foundation of how to sustain family behavior change towards making healthier food choices, increasing physical activity, and reducing screen time. To do so, we know how important community sites are in helping reach parents with our program messages and sharing our tools and resources to help families get started and keep going. The We Can! regional trainings are a great resource to assist community groups with implementing or elevating their programs.

Photo of a diverse group clapping and dancing. Participants at the We Can! Detroit training.

Last fall, the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, a We Can! Intensive community site, hosted a regional training at the Bethany Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. Over the course of two days, 80 enthusiastic community leaders from faith-based organizations, nonprofit community groups, and other organizations, joined program leaders from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (developers of We Can!) and partners from SPARK™ and CATCH® Kids Club to learn more about the program.

During the training sessions, attendees learned about the elements of We Can!, including background on the research and science behind the program, and participated in SPARK and CATCH Kids Club physical activity demonstrations. Our in-person training sessions will not have you sitting and looking at a screen all day—we practice what we teach!

Most of the community leaders who came to this training session work in inner-city and urban locations in Detroit and surrounding areas. The unique challenges that face these communities—such as the presence of "food deserts" (geographic areas that have limited access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and varieties of healthy food choices), ethnically-diverse cultures and traditions, and limited outdoor, green spaces for physical activity—can all contribute to the high rates of chronic diseases. By working with the host site in advance to better understand the challenges of inner-city Detroit families and communities, we tailored the training to address many of those issues as they relate to making healthy nutrition choices and increasing physical activity. The training session helped the community leaders understand that while these challenges may be difficult to tackle, they are not insurmountable. As often as possible, real examples were used to help explain how these challenges can be mitigated, in some instances.

The discussion, sharing, and Q&A sessions were lively and informative. Participants exchanged ideas and tips with one another on how their organizations have worked to teach parents the importance of making healthy changes to traditional foods. For example, one participant shared how she teaches parents to cook many cultural favorites, but in a new way by using healthy ingredients that are typically easy to find in the local grocery store or market. Participants also talked about using creative approaches to reach boys in the community by going to the places where they "hang out," such as the basketball court and inviting them to participate in youth curricula activities offered right in their community.

We know that every community faces similar and unique challenges, and we can work with you to tailor a We Can! training to best meet the needs of your community. If you are interested in planning and hosting an in-person or online regional training session, please contact our training manager, Pamela Long, at

Last Updated: February 13, 2013