September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and Georgia Shape Month statewide.
Together, both occasions are providing an opportunity to recognize the importance of children’s health and celebrate the milestones of Georgia Shape’s movement to increase physical activity, decrease screen time and improve youth nutrition.
As part of Georgia Shape Month, elementary schools in Georgia are invited to participate in Power Up for 30 Day on Sept. 30, an event that will promote physical activity, health and academic achievement in every elementary school across the state.
Power Up for 30 Day will also celebrate the great work happening in schools across the state and encourage those not yet engaged with the program to participate. Throughout the day, several five-minute activity breaks will be published online and made available for all schools to access during the school day.
Schools that sign the Power Up for 30 Pledge between now and Sept. 30 will receive a set of three Georgia Shape window decals for their building and be eligible to attend a free one-day Power Up for 30 training session with HealthMPowers to learn about integrating more physical activity into the school day.
As Georgia Shape Month takes off, leaders from the initiative are reflecting on their past successes, preparing to launch new projects and even remembering touching moments that inspire their hard work every day.
“It’s important to recognize our partners who help us improve child health and wellness measures across the state,” said Emily Anne Vall, Ph.D., Georgia Shape project manager. “Through their collective expertise, we have inspired thousands of school leaders, students and families to promote and live healthy lifestyles. We are excited to see Georgia Shape’s future successes with their continued passion, support and contributions.”
As part of the Georgia Shape Initiative, Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Chronic Disease Prevention Section provides training to schools through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1305 grant that works to advance school health and prevent diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
The Section is preparing to offer Growing Fit training to 100 early child care settings and announce a new roster of Georgia Shape school grantees. Both opportunities enable child care and school leaders to implement physical activity and nutrition policies and practices that encourage positive health behaviors.
“Georgia Shape is providing an excellent platform to expand and connect childhood obesity prevention initiatives in Georgia,” said Jean O’Connor, JD, MPH, DrPH, director of DPH’s Chronic Disease Prevention Section. “We’re especially pleased to bring together many partners that will help reach our youngest children, which is where we have the most opportunity to intervene through our upcoming Growing Fit trainings.”
The Georgia Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) at DPH is another large part of the Georgia Shape initiative by providing nutrition education and health and wellness counseling to families statewide.
Georgia Shape and WIC have worked closely with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life movement to improve the effectiveness of childhood obesity counseling and goal setting practices. To date, more than 600 WIC nutrition educators have been trained and strengthened their skills in motivational interviewing.
“Prior to this collaboration, many counties in our state did not have access to a provider trained in the Strong4Life healthy eating and activity messages,” said Barbara Stahnke, MEd, RD, LD, WIC nutrition program specialist. “Now, children across the state participating in WIC are receiving this best practice counseling, education and materials.”
Stahnke discussed how she’s inspired by the moving stories shared by WIC staff members who provide health education about childhood obesity and nutrition with Georgia families.
“One of our nutritionists shared a story about an overweight little boy and his mother who was receptive to our counseling,” Stahnke said. “After using the Strong4Life charts, the mother was able to understand her son’s weight and was motivated to work on cutting down the sugary beverages. At that moment, she got it. The mother was so emotional that she cried right there in the WIC office.”
Georgia Shape Month is off to a great start, but the work to improve the health and wellness of Georgia’s children encompasses the whole year. School leaders, families and child care providers are encouraged to visit www.GeorgiaShape.org to learn more about current Georgia Shape programs, events, grant opportunities and resources.