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Families team up for healthier lifestyles

The Issue

Overweight is the most common health problem facing U.S. children. One contributing factor is the foods that children are eating — or not eating. The USDA reports that “approximately 70 percent of U.S. children still exceed the current dietary recommendations for total and saturated fats.” The other major contributing factor is the lack of physical exercise.

What Has ANR Done?

UC Cooperative Extension staff in Butte, Glenn, San Luis Obispo and Tehama counties implemented "Let's Eat Smart & Play Hard Together!" The program tackles the problem of childhood obesity in a new way: by implementing a curriculum in which 6 to 8 year old children pair up with an adult who is important in the child’s life to learn about nutrition and fitness while having fun together. Participants prepare healthy snacks and engage in physical activities with inexpensive sports items like bean bags and easy-to-make toys. Each pair also works together to set nutritional and fitness goals and makes a commitment to help each other reach their goals.

A major goal of this program was to evaluate the use of a train-the-trainer approach to present "Let's Eat Smart & Play Hard Together!" through organizations that impact 6- to 8-year-old children and significant adults in these children's lives. Cooperative Extension staff trained cooperating agency staff, then provided program support through educational materials, program supplies, program evaluations and weekly encouragement.

The Payoff

Families find easy ways to be healthier

Data collected before and after implementing the program over a five-year period indicated that 96 percent of participants made a positive nutritional and/or positive physical activity change, such as drinking less soda, sport drinks and fruit drink; eating more fruits and vegetables; and being more physically active. Follow-up surveys three months later show that 95 percent of participants continue to use the program in their daily lives by, for example, making the recipes and doing activities demonstrated in the program, walking more, and sharing information with family and friends.

The results also show that a train-the-trainer approach for implementing "Let's Eat Smart & Play Hard Together!" is effective. UCCE staff trained more than 40 community-based organizations. Programs were provided in English, Spanish or bilingually, based on the preference of the clientele.


Supporting Unit:

San Luis Obispo County, Glenn County, Tehama County, Butte County, Center for Weight and Health UC Berkeley, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Department of Food Science & Nutrition
Shirley Peterson,(805) 781-5951, sspeterson@ucdavis.edu