What is STEPS?
Success through Exercise, Physical Fitness and Sharing Information (STEPS) is a health intervention program to assist families in the fight against childhood obesity. Through interactive educational sessions on nutrition and exercise, families learn how to implement and sustain necessary lifestyle changes to benefit their children's health.
Who can participate in STEPS?
The program is targeted to students, aged 8 -12, who are over the 85th percentile of their recommended body mass index (BMI), or overweight. Their parents must also attend STEPS. Students are referred by their physicians or school nurse. However, parents and guardians can also apply directly to the program.
What makes this program unique?
Studies indicate that parent participation is crucial to any health intervention program. In STEPS, parent participation is mandatory. An SJH registered dietitian works directly with parents to learn how to cook traditional foods healthier. Kids learn the importance of portion size. The STEPS Exercise Specialist teaches kids and their parents how to incorporate play activities into their daily lives. There's also a Parent Facilitator who teaches parents communication and behavior strategies to implement at home what they learn in the course.
What is included in the course?
STEPS provides families with the skills to create healthy lives together and tools to improve children's coordination, balance and sense of confidence. This program is provided free of cost.
How long is the program?
STEPS is a 10-week program offered three times a year, two hours per week. There are evening and Saturday morning courses also available.
How does childhood obesity affect our community?
Obesity has a major impact on children putting them at risk for diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and other serious health concerns, including depression caused by low self esteem. If left untreated, 79% of these children will become obese adults. The high healthcare costs of treating obesity-related illnesses can be greatly offset by early health intervention programs.
Why did the program get started?
STEPS is a community collaboration of South Jersey Healthcare, CCA YMCA and the Vineland Public Schools. Area pediatricians realized that 30 to 40% of their patients were overweight and identified lack of treatment programs a major problem in Cumberland County. They asked South Jersey Healthcare (SJH) to reach out into the community to see how to address this issue. SJH learned that the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA in Vineland wanted to start a health intervention program modeled on an existing program in another state. The Vineland Public Schools (VPS) were interested in partnering because school nurses were noticing alarming rates of childhood obesity. SJH decided to apply for outside funding to start a local STEPS program that would be administered by the CCA YMCA.
SJH applied for a NJ Health Initiative Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). When writing the grant, SJH asked the VPS for statistical data that could be included. In one elementary school, 44% of the 8 year students had a BMI over the 85th percentile. In another school, over 50% of the 12-year-old students were over the 85th percentile. The local statistics were greater than those of the State and national figures for students in this age category. In July 2007, SJH learned that they were awarded a three year grant from RWJF, the only 2007 NJHI recipient in the category of childhood obesity to receive funding. 18 courses have been held between September 2007 and June 2010.
How do I sign up?
Call Bill at Garden AHEC @ 856-507-8565