Intervention to Reduce Pre-Adolescent Obesity: Christine Raper Shares Her Practicum Experience

With a background in psychology, education, leadership, and now public health, I have always had a passion for teaching others. Working previously with students in all grades of the K-12 sector and at colleges and universities, I have always been interested in how people learn information and apply the knowledge they have attained. With my personal and professional interests in tow, I was able to find a practicum experience that matched perfectly at the beginning of my second semester at Mailman.

In January 2012, I began my practicum at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School, a combined elementary and middle school located in the Hudson Heights section of Washington Heights. Working as an intern for the Parent Teacher Association’s Wellness Committee, I was able to work closely with the parents of elementary and middle school students to make changes that were both feasible and sustainable.

A major part of my work at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School was to revise the nutrition curriculum for elementary school students. Using the new MyPlate recommendations as a guide, I created a new nutrition curriculum and implemented it with the first graders, teaching three weeks of nutrition lessons to eager seven-year-olds. Working with the Wellness Committee, we also started the Budding Chefs program, which teaches elementary school students basic cooking skills to spark their interest in health and wellness. We also held our third annual KidFit event, an annual obesity awareness and prevention health fair open to the Washington Heights community.

After working with P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School for some time, I began to recognize the need for more programs that related to the middle school students. I was running out of time to start a program for the middle school students, so I decided that I would use my ideas as a proposal for my Master’s Thesis. As a Health Promotion track student (same as the Health Promotion Research and Practice certificate for all the first-years), I chose to write my thesis as an intervention proposal, focusing on the preadolescents in Hudson Heights. My master’s thesis, titled Life’s a PEACH (Parents, Educators and preAdolescents for Children’s Health) is a theory-guide and evidence-based tri-level intervention to decrease preadolescent obesity in Hudson Heights. Intervening on preadolescents, their parents, and school administration, the intervention program focuses on nutritional and physical activity changes that can be made at home, in school, and in the community.

As graduation is closing in, with less than two months until the big day, I have taken time to reflect on my experiences over the last two years at Mailman. My practicum opportunity working with the students, families, and administration at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School is one of the bright memories I will take with me after I leave this great city. To all the first year students: Choose how you spend your time wisely, and take in as many experiences as possible, because two years go by more quickly than you think.

Best wishes,

Christine

Cook4Health Workshop: Teaching Doctors About Food

FPOP held the pilot session of our Cook4Health initiative to teach medical providers about food and cooking. Doctors know surprisingly little about food and nutrition, which is a hindrance to their ability to treat the consequences of food-related disease. In order to address that, we are rolling out cooking workshops so that doctors can establish a dialogue with their patients about eating and cooking practices.

In order to address this deficit, we decided to go to young future doctors and give them some basic information and cooking tips, so that they could walk the talk and feel comfortable discussing food with their patients. In order for the doctors to preach, we wanted to show them that they really could create delicious, healthy dishes that were very affordable. We held the first workshop last Thursday and I’m proud to say it was a resounding success. The doctors were incredibly engaged in the material and were truly interested in learning about the benefits of foods.

Importantly, we insisted on focusing not just on nutrients (beta-carotene, for example), but on foods (carrots!). We also created dishes based on culturally-appropriate foods their patients already use. In this case, working with doctors who practice family medicine in Washington Heights, we chose ingredients and flavors that would be familiar to the Dominican population: corn, beans, yucca, sweet potatoes, lime, cilantro.

The direct aim of this program is to get doctors to feel comfortable talking to their patients about food — even using cooking practices as a “vital sign,” for example, since it’s very difficult to eat healthily on a low-income budget if you don’t cook.

The larger, indirect aim is to cultivate a sense of responsibility in the medical community for helping shape the food environment. Doctors have a notoriously large voice in shaping public opinion and public policy. If they become advocates for changes in our food system, we are much more likely to achieve the large-scale environmental change we need to ensure that the default choice is not the unhealthiest choice.

Changing Policy to Improve the Food Environment

Speaker:
Kristen Mancinelli, City Harvest

As en expert in food policy and advocacy, Kristen spoke to us about the process of influencing lawmakers to change policy. She shared with us her first-hand experience in building the NYC Alliance for Child Nutrition Reauthorization: gathering stakeholders, priority setting, messaging to public and policymakers, maintaining momentum, and effectively changing legislation.