One of America’s Top Places to Live Steps into Healthier Habits with Assistance from We Can!®

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Posted May 12, 2011

If you’ve heard of Westerville, Ohio—a suburb of Columbus—it may be because Money magazine ranked it 15th out of 100 best places to live in the nation, in 2009.  One big reason for that ranking endures: The city of some 36,000 offers more than 46 parks, a community recreation center, and 26 miles of walking paths and trails.

These parks and paths are something that Step By Step Pediatrics—Westerville’s We Can! community site since April 2010 and a recipient of one of the We Can! 2011 Assistance Program Awards—will take advantage of as it uses We Can! resources to teach families the first steps to being more active, as well as ways to eat right, and spend less time in front of the screen. 

The site is already teaching members of the community the importance of these key behaviors through activities ranging from family walks, to visits to farmers markets, and grocery shopping lessons. Jamie Nickley, a Registered Nurse and wellness enthusiast, helps teach a six hour-long We Can! Parent Program that has been adapted to include children. 

“People stay to ask questions.  They want to learn more, and parents are excited about the material,” said Nickley. “At the end of each session, the children pick a weekly nutrition and physical activity goal that fits their interests, and on which they report the following week. As an added incentive, those who never miss a class take home $15 of ‘Veggie Bucks,’ a gift certificate valid at a local farmer’s market.” 

“Veggie Bucks” help attendees learn that it can be affordable and easy to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Parent Program participants also are encouraged to attend weekly “Walk with a Doc” wellness events that include a health talk by a local physician followed by a 2-mile family walk.  Attendance helps them fill a special 30 Days of Fitness calendar (developed by Step By Step to help children meet a minimum of 28 days per month of physical activity) and earn their way toward prizes such as We Can! pedometers.

On the nutrition front, Step By Step recently hosted a “Smart Shopper” nutrition tour of a local, family-owned market (the Raisin Rack).  Twenty-one participants followed a Registered Dietitian down each aisle, learning about the nutritional content of everything within eyesight, ranging from frozen foods to fresh produce. 

“It worked out perfectly,” said Nickley.  “The parents agreed that it would be beneficial to come back for more.”

Although Step by Step’s We Can! programs were originally designed to reach lower-income families, they are now open to anyone.  This spring Nickley is working with her fifth group of participants, all while following up with participants from previous sessions.  What are the program’s next steps? They include expanding into organic foods, unique ingredients, and much more.

Last Updated: February 13, 2013