Healthy Out-of-School Time – Spotlight: Children International
What is the first thought in your head when you think of Arkansas? The Clinton family? Walmart? The Arkansas Razorbacks? These are all great thoughts when thinking about The Natural State.
For some, Arkansas may be associated with heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. In fact, Arkansas ranks 3rd among states with the highest obesity rates. While this statistic is concerning, there are plenty of great things happening in Arkansas, especially related to our out-of-school time programs.
One initiative to help reduce childhood obesity is the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Initiative, which launched in Little Rock, AR in 2013 through generous funding from the Walmart Foundation. In just two years, more than 35 out-of-school time programs in central Arkansas have participated in the HOST Initiative, working to improve access to healthy foods, increase physical activity, and engage in positive youth development. One of the programs in Little Rock that is making a healthy impact is Children International.
Children International reaches more than 340,000 children and youth through 17 agencies in 11 countries around the world, providing key resources and services to help reduce the burden of poverty on impoverished children and youth. In partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock since 1994, Children International has been working to provide a variety of services to help students and families break through the barriers of poverty. This is evident in the neighborhoods where Children International operates their youth programs, where more often than not, access to healthy foods, parks for play, and a culture of health and wellness are not prevalent.
By addressing health and wellness concerns in their out-of-school time program, Children International is creating a healthy environment and empowering students to make healthy choices, where they may not have the opportunity otherwise.
5 Lessons Learned
Here are five lessons learned from Children International’s work in Little Rock that are sure to make your own program and community healthier:
1. Establish Health and Wellness as a Priority Area
Healthy eating and physical activities are not just an activity or a short term program for Children International. This is a priority area for the organization. They are investing their time, resources, and energy to empower students to develop lifelong, healthy habits. Consider how health and wellness is, or could be, a priority area within your organization.
2. Create a Wellness Team
Children International has a dedicated, engaged staff team that is committed to making the right changes in their program to allow students healthier opportunities. Think about who can be involved in a wellness team at your organization. Staff? Parents? Students?
3. Build Support for Healthy Initiatives
If you are focusing on health and wellness, shout it loud for all to hear! This will help gain support from community partners, potential funders, and increase investment from families and parents. Children International ensures that key messaging about their health initiatives are shared for the community and public.
4. Set Wellness Goals to Stay on track
Children International works each year to set smart, realistic wellness goals that will help them increase access to healthy foods and physical activity. Create an action plan to help stay on track with the wellness goals you establish.
5. Engage the Family
Through family nights, community events, newsletters, or quick opportunities after school, Children International seeks ways to keep families and parents informed of the healthy habits students are learning.