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New grant helps CSUEB and Hayward schools fight childhood obesity

  • November 10, 2011

Nearly half of Hayward Unified School District students are overweight.

But California State University, East Bay and its community partners are working to change that, with a $150,000 Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Local Partnership Grant from Kaiser Permanente to promote healthy eating and active living in the East Bay. Efforts will be focused on children in the Jackson Triangle, the south Hayward area recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program.

The project is part of a new initiative to combat obesity across Northern California, supported by Kaiser Permanente through a fund established at the East Bay Community Foundation. Hayward has the highest prevalence of overweight children and youth in Alameda County. 

The two-year grant will establish Coordinated School Health programs at two Hayward elementary schools that serve the majority of K-6 students in the Jackson Triangle. Assistant Professor Sue Rodearmel (kinesiology) will coordinate the projects with school administrators and Promise Neighborhood partners.  

“This is exactly what Promise Neighborhoods is about,” said Rodearmel. “We leverage the resources of the university and all of our connections to further the cause of a healthier community.” 

Approximately 80 percent of students at Harder Elementary and Park Elementary schools are from underserved communities, and more than half are classified as English learners. Rodearmel, an exercise physiologist and obesity prevention specialist, said that obesity tends to “go hand-in hand with being economically disadvantaged, unfortunately.” 

Reaching out to children and families through the schools will help this at-risk population gain access to information about nutrition and fitness, she said.

Obesity prevention is a priority for Kaiser, one of the East Bay’s major health care providers and employers. “As we address obesity, especially childhood obesity, it’s imperative to make changes at the local level — where people live, work and play — to make it easier for people to eat healthier and move more as part of daily life,” said Scott Gee, MD, director of Prevention and Health Information for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “Otherwise, we will continue to see a rise in obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes.”

CSUEB’s coordinated school health program has several goals, including increasing physical activity as well as physical education in the schools. Other elements will focus on nutrition and healthy eating, with a goal to reduce students’ calorie intake, especially from sugared drinks, and increase fruit and vegetable consumption. 

Barbara R. Berman, principal of Park Elementary, said she’s excited to participate. “We are a ‘community of need,’ and to see that there is help is really terrific,” she said. “There’s so much potential for change.”

Each school will create wellness teams to assess their school’s needs and develop an action plan for addressing the goals regarding fitness, nutrition and obesity prevention. CSUEB will provide tools for implementing those plans, as well as the funding from the Kaiser grant. 

Benefits will extend beyond the students, Rodearmel added, with programs for teachers and staff to improve their physical activity and healthy eating habits. Berman said that everyone at Park will join in, both to help model good behavior for students and for their own health. “We want to change the culture at our school, which means staff, students and families together,” she said. 

Over time, Rodearmel explained, the wellness teams and action plans will help schools create a healthier school environment. This might include creating policies to maintain recess time and ensure that physical education is part of the elementary curriculum. Berman said she hopes to be able to add a new fitness play structure to the grounds at her school.

Berman also wants Park’s program to discuss health and food in a larger social context. “We want to honor everyone’s culture, and learn to look at food and choices within those cultures,” she said. 

This grant from Kaiser is one of several to the Promise Neighborhood partnership, which was established with a federal planning grant in fall 2010. It also receives support through the Gateways Partnership, a regional alliance of education, business, and policy leaders convened by CSUEB.

About California State University, East Bay

California State University, East Bay is the San Francisco East Bay Area's high-access public university of choice. CSUEB serves the region with campuses in Hayward and Concord, a professional development center in Oakland, and an innovative online campus. With an enrollment of almost 13,000, the University offers a nationally recognized freshman year experience, award-winning curriculum, personalized instruction, and expert faculty. Students choose from among more than 100 professionally focused fields of study for which the University confers bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as an Ed.D. in education. Named a "Best in the West" college, as well as a Best Business School, by the influential Princeton Review, Cal State East Bay is among the region's foremost producers of teachers, business professionals and entrepreneurs, public administrators, health professionals, literary and performing artists, and science and math graduates.

About Kaiser Permanente 

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.8 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to www.kp.org/newscenter.

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