Field of Work: Childhood obesity
Problem Synopsis: Cumberland County, in southern New Jersey, has the highest unemployment rate and lowest average income in the state, and is home to a large minority population, primarily Latino. According to the New Jersey Childhood Obesity Study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), 40 percent of children ages 8 to 12 in Vineland—Cumberland County's largest city—are overweight or obese, compared with 21 percent of their counterparts across the country. This rate is highest among Latino children.
Synopsis of the Work: South Jersey Healthcare, a nonprofit system composed of hospitals, health clinics, and other providers, collaborated with Vineland Public Schools and the Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA to implement S.T.E.P.S. for Kids, a 12-week course that helps overweight children and their parents combat obesity. The course targeted youth aged 8 to 12 with a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile. RWJF's New Jersey Health Initiatives Program funded the project.
Project partners offered the 12-week course—held for one hour twice weekly—to children and their parents or guardians 18 times from 2008 to 2010. A total of 190 children and 200 parents and guardians enrolled in the course, and 60 percent of participating families completed it.
Nearly 96 percent of children who completed the course reported better eating habits, and a significant percentage spent less time watching TV and more time engaged in physical activity. More than half of these students lowered their BMI. And some 95 percent reported that they felt "better" at the end of the course.