Childhood obesity has been identified as a major and growing health problem. This project addresses factors associated with childhood obesity by using a systems-based approach in the hopes of preventing or reducing the severity of childhood obesity, which can reduce health care expenditures and improve the quality and longevity of life for the at-risk segment of this population. The program will be presented through collaboration with four YMCAs in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which will serve as sites for the programs. This program is designed to develop ways of reducing the prevalence of obesity in children, while also involving all children and their families in developing healthy lifestyles around healthy eating habits and healthy activity habits.
Community and university human and financial resources were mobilized to create the Healthy Kids Project. The development of the program was a collaborative effort between a faculty member and a doctoral student from the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS). This project will serve as the student’s Ph.D. dissertation. Program development was a collaborative effort between these two individuals and the Office of Research at the Children’s Services Council. Graduate students from SHSS, the Center for Psychological Studies (CPS), and the Health Professions Divisions (HPD) will all participate as evaluators or instructors in the program.
The study will involve adolescents and their families in three different groups. In one, children are offered standard activity opportunities. In the second group, these opportunities are supplemented by information about eating habits and activity habits. A third group adds family involvement and information about emotional and family-related practices, which can have an impact on healthy decision making, to the second group’s provided information. Children will be assessed on a number of physical and emotional indices to determine what aspects of the program are most effective in developing healthy outcomes. Results of this program will be made available to the university community through the presentation of results of the dissertation, to the scientific community through the preparation of published reports, and to the larger community through reports to be provided to the Children’s Services Council.
Springing from an initial $10,000 scholarship from the NSU/CCB QOL Council, this project has now resulted in $150,000 of additional grant funding from the state of Florida.
Project WIN’s primary purpose was to help the women who reside at the Broward Outreach Center (a homeless shelter in Pompano Beach, Florida) improve their ability to function and focus on the skills needed to reenter the workforce. This was done by training them to use memory recall techniques to compensate for their memory loss.
The clients attended a one-hour focus group session in which personal views and information were shared among the participants. The researchers gathered the information needed and designed the activities specific to individual needs. The clients also filled out a needs assessment survey after the session. The survey contained 10 items with questions such as, “Have you ever been to a homeless shelter before?” and “Have you ever had involvement in the criminal justice system?” The group sessions allowed the clients to express feelings regarding the areas of need relating to memory loss. The clients discussed how memory loss has affected their ability to function at everyday tasks and how it hindered their job performance. The researchers arranged the focus groups to accommodate the clients’ schedules. The clients also participated in intervention strategies using the popular Project MIND (Math Is Not Difficult) activities. They did this for one hour per day for a minimum of 7 days and a maximum of 60 days.
The clients were involved in follow-up interviews, and also participated in a summative evaluation focus group. During the final focus group, several themes emerged as key findings of the study. In addition to the educational aspects of the program, the development of social networks among the participants, the building of self-esteem, and the opportunity for self-improvement were cited by most of the participants as being among the most important results of the program.
Project WIN has been nominated for Governor Jeb Bush’s prestigious Points of Light Award. The project also was featured in this year’s Boca Raton parade as one of the major philanthropic projects of the Soroptimist International Society (a cofunder of the project). Finally, the information gained from this study may be helpful to educators and health care professionals in developing appropriate educational programs for homeless women in shelters throughout the country.