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DuPage's Only Provider of Head Start Takes Aim at Childhood Obesity in Minorities

Lifelink introduces Color Me Healthy(TM)/Salud Primero to teach ABCs of

nutrition curriculum

BENSENVILLE, Ill., Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Lifelink today announced that it has launched an expansive campaign to bring a comprehensive diet and nutrition curriculum to all of its Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms in an effort to have a dramatic impact on lowering childhood obesity and diabetes in minority children. Lifelink also will offer the program in home-based settings to Head Start families and to all families participating in Lifelink's Healthy Family programs.

Lifelink is the exclusive provider of Head Start and Early Head Start in DuPage County, serving 484 children and 525 parents -- at least 95 percent of whom live below the poverty level. Currently, 93 percent of the children it serves are ethnic minorities (77 percent are Latino, 7.7 percent are African American, 1.5 percent are bi-racial and 6.6 percent are Caucasian). A majority of the children come from immigrant families with a variety of languages spoken. One of Lifelink's Head Start centers has 19 different home-languages spoken.

Statistics indicated that families living below the poverty level are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese. America's poor families are especially hard hit because of a convergence of factors -- lack of neighborhood grocery stores carrying fresh fruits and vegetables, rising cost of nutritious foods, fewer safe parks and play spaces for exercise, and the ease and lower cost of fast foods for family's daily menu options.

Color Me Healthy(TM)/Salud Primero introduces a healthy nutrition and exercise curriculum to the children alongside a coordinated Health First program for parents, which is a more in-depth curriculum than is already being provided through Head Start parent trainings and Healthy Family curriculums. Lifelink is working alongside DuPage health and mental health providers to bring this comprehensive approach to all of its 14 Head Start/Early Head Start classrooms.

"Childhood obesity and chronic disease are disproportionately affecting African American and Latino children. A lifelong commitment to nutrition and healthy lifestyles is the strongest tool we have to prevent the development of preventable chronic disease in children," said Kim Perez, Lifelink vice president of Child & Family Services.

Perez notes that the Color Me Healthy(TM)/Salud Primero curriculum has a proven track record. It won an education award from the North Carolina Association of Cooperative Extension Specialists as well as the Dannon Institute Award for Excellence in Community Nutrition. The curriculum was cited for its early intervention in the learning process and its lifelong impact on the participant's healthy lifestyle choices.

Color Me Healthy(TM)/Salud Primero curriculum highlights/goals

-- 100 percent of Lifelink Head Start and Healthy Families staff will be

trained in the curriculum

-- 100 percent of children, ages 3-5, will participate in nutrition and

exercise curriculum

-- 90 percent of Head Start teachers will spend at least one hour per week

dedicated solely to nutrition topics and exercise sessions

-- 100 percent of children will be introduced to healthy fruits and

vegetable tastings

-- 100 percent of children will indicate they understand the correlation

between movement, nutrition and health by the end of the program's

inaugural year.

-- 60 percent of parents will attend 15 or more nutrition/exercise

training sessions

-- 100 percent of parents will receive curriculum newsletters and handouts

-- 50 percent of parents will indicate they have made positive changes in

diet and exercise

-- 75 percent of parents will indicated they have been screened for

diabetes and other chronic diseases

-- 90 percent of parents will express knowledge of how to access free

healthcare for their families

-- 85 percent of families will have created an family health plan

-- Lifelink will train 10 bilingual parents to become peer health


Lifelink's work with parents also will focus on access to annual screenings and affordable or free healthcare to help families prevent chronic disease.

Founded in 1895, Lifelink is a not-for-profit human service organization related to the United Church of Christ. Lifelink's multi-generational programs include affordable housing for older adults and physically challenged adults, housing management services, home care, Head Start, Early Head Start, Healthy Families, foster care, international adoption, Latino family services and ministries for at-risk youths at its Hoyleton offices in southern Illinois. Lifelink is fully accredited by the national Council on Accreditation. COA accreditation attests that an organization meets the highest national standards of best practice and is delivering the best quality services to the communities it serves.

SOURCE Lifelink
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