NMC Commentary

Is RiseVT Measuring Long-Term Health Improvement in Our Community?

Yes.  RiseVT partners with the Vermont Department of Health to measure our community’s progress on key indicators of improved population health so we can track the progress of our efforts to embrace healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic conditions.  Our measures include the overall obesity rate in the community, in which improvements are expected to occur over a number of years.  During that time, we are also tracking factors which contribute to improvement: increases in physical activity during leisure time; increases in kids walking and biking to school; increases in fruit and vegetable consumption; increases in access to smoke free environments; and increases in the number of employers who have robust wellness programs.

As part of our work to track changes in our community’s health, we are partnering with local schools to gather the height and weight of all of the 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders in Franklin and Grand Isle counties. This data collection has been guided by a team of experts including local Pediatrician Dr. Deanne Haag, local educators and a school nurse, colleagues from the Vermont Department of Health, and the Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine & RiseVT Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine. Our approach aligns with the EPODE international best practice. We have worked closely with University of Vermont (UVM) and UVM Medical Center to obtain approval for this project by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) that assures that all activities are conducted in a manner that promotes the rights and welfare of the students.  In addition, we are following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ten safeguards to ensure a safe and supportive environment for students.  These data are anonymous and can be used to identify trends over time or monitor the outcomes of a policy or practice aimed to improve student health. This is not to inform parents of their child’s weight status.  We have been working through the area’s school superintendents to communicate with teachers and parents and coordinate this important data collection.  Here is our letter to parents:

“Since June 2015, RiseVT has encouraged communities to embrace healthy lifestyles.  RiseVT started with one single question – how healthy are the people who live in Franklin and Grand Isle counties.  The numbers told us that we could do better.  We began working in many communities, businesses, towns, and schools to provide support for a positive change.”

            “We believe that our children are our future and want to make sure all our children grow and learn.  Most of all, we do not want them to develop unnecessary health problems such as diabetes or heart disease.  We believe that having specific information on our own students would serve as a starting point to measure changes because of the work of RiseVT over the next few years.”

            “Your school will team up with RiseVT to gather height and weight information for children in Grades 1, 3 and 5.  The space will be set up so that privacy is guaranteed.  Children will be measured using the metric system for height (centimeters) and weight (kilograms). The information will not be linked to your child’s name but combined with all other children as a group. We will invite your child to participate again when he or she enters the 3rd or 5th grade (as appropriate for your child). The information we collect this year gives us a starting point to determine positive change over the next several years.”

            “Your child will not be asked any personal or private questions about him/herself or about your family.  At no time will your child’s name be associated with his/her height or weight.  Participation for the collection of your child’s height and weight measurement is completely voluntary.  Your child will be given the opportunity to refuse if he or she does not want to participate at any time.” 

It is so exciting to see all of the positive energy around embracing healthy lifestyles and RiseVT in our community, particularly in many of our schools.  This gathering of benchmark data to measure the improvement in our collective health as our culture and environment shifts over time is so important.  If you have any questions about our data collection efforts, please call Denise Smith of RiseVT at 524- 8825.  To learn more about RiseVT visit us online at www. RiseVT.com, connect with RiseVT through social media, or join in on one of our upcoming events that are highlighted in the news media!  This is an amazing community and it is wonderful to be rising together toward a healthier future!

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer