By Michael De Lucca, MHM, President & CEO; Teina M. Phillips, MPA, TOUCH Program Director; Joanne G. Richter, MS, TOUCH Special Advisor; Broward Regional Health Planning Council — Download the graphics and PDF of this story at: TFAH2013FasInFatBroward
Childhood obesity does not originate from a single cause, nor can it be addressed by a single solution. Childhood obesity is multifaceted and addressing it requires solutions that
encompass the familial, environmental and societal issues surrounding it.
The Community Transformation Grant awarded to Broward Regional Health Planning Council’s Transforming Our Community’s Health (TOUCH) initiative serves the 1.7 million residents of Broward County, Florida. TOUCH, through the activities of its dedicated partners, focuses attention on policies and evidence-based interventions over the continuum of a
child’s life, beginning at birth. Our initiatives include:
Transforming Our Community’s Health: Working Together to Reduce Childhood Obesity for a Healthier Broward County, Florida Giving Children a Healthy First Start
— Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (TOUCH Partners: Foundation for a Breastfeeding Culture and South Florida Hospital, Research and Education Foundation):
Recognizing that many studies have discussed the short- and longterm benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and children, TOUCH partners are working to remove barriers to and promote acceptance of breastfeeding by collaborating with the county’s hospitals’ and birthing centers’ administrators, nurses and mothers. When hospitals have policies that advance
breastfeeding, staff who encourage it, and parents who understand it is the best way to begin feeding their babies, the first baby steps to ending childhood obesity are taken.
Healthy Toddlers and Pre-Schoolers — Early Learning Environment (TOUCH Partners: Early Learning Coalition, Family Central, Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth (FLIPANY), Consulting Registered Dietitians, Ruby Natale, PhD, PsyD):
Creating early learning environments that build on the benefits gained from breastfeeding, TOUCH Partners educate children, parents, teachers, administrators and decision makers on
the importance of proper nutrition, limited screen time and increased active play in early learning and childcare settings. Through group trainings and individualized menu planning, the
multidisciplinary TOUCH team has demonstrated to center administrators and key personnel that adding opportunities for physical activity and improving nutrition do not require
additional staff nor lead to greater costs.
In addition, due to the collective impact and collaborative work of TOUCH Partners, the Broward County’s Child Care Licensing and Enforcement section has recognized the importance of the “Caring for Our Children” standards in reducing childhood obesity. Future efforts will involve incorporating these standards countywide for the licensing of all childcare centers to ensure children stay healthy and are ready for school. These system changes are demonstrating how making healthy choices in foods, play and physical activity can be done with the same personnel at the same budget while improving the children’s health and learning outcomes.
Healthy Schools: In-School and After- School Nutrition and Physical Activity (TOUCH Partners: Broward County Public Schools, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Children’s Services Council and YMCA of Broward County):
Continuing the momentum for adoption of healthier ways of living, TOUCH Partners have been educating the community on the links between improved nutrition and increased opportunities for physical activity with children’s well-being and higher academic performance. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy School’s Program has been instrumental in coordinating the efforts at the Broward County Public Schools’ district level with that of individual elementary, middle and high schools in the areas of nutrition and physical activity.
In addition, the Childrens’ Services Council in partnership with the YMCA of Broward, has been influential in institutionalizing the evidence-based SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) curriculum in all after-school programs throughout the County. As one parent shared, “We sometimes get so concerned with test scores that we forget important contributing factors to student success: eating well, feeling safe and playing hard. The Healthy Schools Program helps my kids’ schools make healthier food choices, and the Y-Fit/ SPARK program gives them a safe place to play with fun, fast-paced exercise.”
Healthy & Safe Places to Walk, Bike and Play (TOUCH Partners: Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, Urban Health Partnerships, Smart Growth Partnership, and YMCA of Broward):
Communities benefit in innumerable ways by giving children and families the opportunity to be active in their neighborhoods. Reductions in crime, increased community pride and improved health have been noted as a result of safer sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes and green areas that encourage walking, biking and outdoor play. TOUCH Partners have successfully joined with the County and municipalities to endorse Complete Streets Guidelines, Smart Growth Standards and Joint Usage Agreements to address the structural
and environmental barriers to being physically active and create more walkable, bikeable and transitfriendly roadways.
Healthy Patients from Birth to Adulthood (Broward Community and Family Health Center, Broward Health, Holy Cross Hospital, Memorial Hospital, Health Foundation of South Florida):
TOUCH Partners have engaged primary care providers through the Federally Qualified Health Center, major hospitals, Broward County Medical Association and Broward County Pediatric Society to reduce childhood obesity through the promotion of breastfeeding and by offering suggestions on ways to begin honest yet sensitive dialogue with parents about their child’s weight. Through implementation of Patient Centered Medical Homes, TOUCH Partners are working to reduce the incidences of childhood obesity and lessen the healthcare costs, emotional damage, and long-term diseases and disabilities associated with obesity.
Childhood obesity is complex and not easily addressed by any one approach. TOUCH has brought together community-based organizations, multidisciplinary strategies and diverse communities to address the most recognizable factors contributing to childhood obesity. It is anticipated that these system, environmental and policy enhancements will positively impact the health, well-being and longevity of children living in Broward County, Florida.