Franklin community center embraces HEAL to promote health, fun for families
CONCORD, NH (March 17, 2014) - Amazing changes have been underway at the Bessie Rowell Community Center in Franklin, New Hampshire. Over the past year, an empty building that was once an elementary school has been transformed into a community center that fosters good health and supports healthy eating and active lifestyle (HEAL) practices.
The Community Center is quickly becoming a place where families, community members, children, and staff can play, work, and learn in a healthy environment. Housed within its walls include the Tiny Twisters Day Care Center, Head Start and Early Head Start, and the Franklin Parks and Recreation Department. The staff at these three organizations has come together into one HEAL-focused peer network group. This group meets on a monthly basis and is collaborating to improve their work in areas such as increasing physical activity and healthy food options, limiting screen time, as well as making health-focused environment and policy changes.
Melissa Rizzo, LRGHealthcare Community Educator and Greater Franklin HEAL Co-Coordinator in Franklin, NH,noted, "Our local coalition continues to work towards the overall goals of the HEAL program, and certainly changing and focusing on policy and practice is what we're aiming to do. We want to make change on a broad level."
To aid in this work at the Community Center, free tools from the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC) are being utilized for assessment, training, and evaluation purposes (www.gonapsacc.org). As part of an effort to reverse rising obesity trends in young children, NAP SACC provides organizations with tools to assess and develop standards for outdoor play and learning, physical activity, nutrition, screen time, breastfeeding and infant feeding. Since the peer networking meetings are all about collaborating, they wanted to work in the areas that all of the organizations had in common. These assessments provided the staff with a foundation to build upon.
Staff members from the three organizations also attended NAP SACC trainings focused on obesity prevention, role modeling, and parent education. These trainings were facilitated by Greater Franklin HEAL members Melissa Rizzo of Franklin Regional Hospital and Elizabeth White of Health First Family Care Center. Rizzo explains, "It was a great day. We started at 8 o'clock in the morning and provided them with lots of healthy snacks and opportunities to get up and moving. I was impressed with all the conversations between the three groups and how they very quickly began to realize what types of resources they had just in one building."
It has only been a few weeks and Rizzo is already seeing and hearing about positive outcomes involving putting the information from these trainings into practice with enthusiastic energy. An 18-month grant from the HNH Foundation has allowed for the creation and facilitation of the peer networking meetings, the NAP SACC trainings, as well as funding for implementation in each organization. LRGHealthcare is serving as the fiscal agent for the grant.
In addition to NAP SACC, the Bessie Rowell Community Center has a number of other healthy eating and active living initiatives in place including a new natural playground and the Early Sprouts seed-to-table gardening curriculum. They also plan to add raised gardens and a mural depicting the Center's HEAL philosophy.
What's next for this group? There is some enthusiastic chatter about a possible upcoming community celebratory event for families and community members. Rizzo explains, "This spring there will be a celebration event that will help bring awareness to the community about the initiatives focused on healthy eating and physical activity at Bessie Rowell Community Center. We want to let the community know that this place is about healthy families!"
For more information about Bessie Rowell Community Center contact the Greater Franklin HEAL Coalition Co-Coordinators Melissa Rizzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or Krystal Alpers at email@example.com. For more information about NAP SACC, contact Scot Foster at the Obesity Prevention Program, State of NH Department of Health and Human Services at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About HEAL NH: Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) NH campaign began in 2008 and is led by the Foundation for Healthy Communities, a non-profit New Hampshire organization focused on improving health and health care through innovative partnerships. HEAL is supported by a collaboration of foundations and state agencies committed to promoting health and wellbeing for all New Hampshire residents. Funding is provided by HNH Foundation, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, Endowment for Health, NH Charitable Foundation, and NH Department of Health and Human Services. More information about the HEAL NH Campaign can be found at www.healnh.org.