RiseVT’s collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) and our local schools to establish a benchmark for health status in our community’s children went remarkably well for a ‘first of its kind’ initiative! You may remember from a column in September that as part of our work to track improvements in our community’s health, RiseVT partnered 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 information will serve as an important benchmark as we work to embrace healthier lifestyles throughout our region. All fifteen of the Franklin County elementary schools participated and two of the Grand Isle Schools have participated so far (three others may be scheduled)! In all, we have had 1,688 children participate so far which is a participation rate of 88% in those schools. That is remarkable! It is a testament to the partnership demonstrated by our schools’ superintendents, principals, teachers, nurses, and staff who helped communicate and coordinate the work of the RiseVT team. It is my pleasure to thank all of our partners in the local schools for their help!
I would also like to thank the team that went to the schools to gather the data. RiseVT Program Manager Denise Smith led the effort and did a fine job of creating an efficient schedule. VDH District Director Judy Ashley was instrumental in the planning and training for the onsite efforts. Our measurement teams were a collaboration of RiseVT, NMC, and VDH staff, including: Jessica Frost, Betsy Fournier, Brian Clukey, Cristine Griffin, Danielle Pothier, Lindsay Hoar, Stacy Carpenter, and Gillian Marchessault. Our thanks go to that entire team. Behind the scenes, this process was 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, NMC’s Jonathan Billings, and the Medical Director of Lifestyle Medicine & RiseVT Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine. In addition to the local presence, our measurement project drew in outside expertise as well. Our approach aligned with the EPODE international best practice that Dr. Fontaine brought to the program with its emphasis on scientific measurement of progress and results. We worked closely with University of Vermont (UVM) and UVM Medical Center to obtain approval for this project by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to assure that all activities were conducted in a manner that promotes the rights and welfare of the students. In addition, we followed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) ten safeguards to ensure a safe and supportive environment for students. This is a great example of what can be accomplished by community-based partnerships!
The results from our measurement project are now being analyzed by the UVM researchers. That data will become an important benchmark for us to measure progress against as RiseVT continues to engage northwestern Vermont in embracing healthy lifestyles. With this data, we will be able to reflect in future years on whether our culture has shifted enough towards healthier eating and increased physical activity and other healthy habits to result in a higher percentage of healthy weights among our youth. That is a key step in the overall improvement in the health of our community and a valuable step in the effort to reduce the demand for costly healthcare interventions in the future. Children who are at healthier weights and who are accustomed to healthy eating and active play are at lower risk for future health problems. By going upstream and engaging our youth in the schools, the families in our community, the employees at our worksites, and the leaders of our municipalities, we can work together and create a healthier future for all.
RiseVT is the exciting movement in that direction. Have you been to www.RiseVT.com and taken the RiseVT pledge to embrace healthier habits? Take a look and join us! Fill out the individual scorecard to see all the good things you are currently doing and get some ideas for what you might like to improve. Check out the RiseVT ‘show up’ calendar for upcoming free offerings to explore healthy habits! Northwestern Vermont is rising and we want you to join in the healthy fun! By doing so, we are all moving towards a healthier future!
— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer