The Alabama Cooperative Extension System is taking on the childhood obesity problem in Alabama. Obesity is Alabama's number one health problem. Alabama has the second highest obesity rate in the nation, and more than 31 percent of Alabama children between the ages of 6 and 11 are obese. ACES's objectives are to reverse the trend of childhood obesity and create a health-conscious environment through a variety of educational efforts.
Body Quest: Food of the Warrior is a new childhood obesity prevention curriculum designed for school-based education. Using a novel team-teaching model, this educational initiative will be jointly implemented by educators of the Nutrition Education Program and 4-H. The curriculum is designed to encourage elementary students to examine their eating behaviors and to develop new, healthier habits. Specifically, Body Quest focuses on increasing fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, increasing physical activity, improving sleep hygiene and encouraging parental involvement.
"The development of Body Quest: Food for the Warrior has been a true team effort," says Dr. Barbara Struempler, professor, nutritionist and Extension specialist. "The development team included ACES administrators, communication staff, information technology staff, 4-H state staff, NEP and 4-H agents and specialists, Auburn students and graduate students in various fields of study, Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management staff at Auburn University and Alabama Department of Human Resources staff."
Thirty-six NEP and 4-H agents have completed training and are hitting the schools with Body Quest: Food of the Warrior.
"This curriculum has two unique aspects," says Dr. Molly Gregg, 4-H and youth development specialist. First, it can supplement a kindergarten through fifth-grade core curriculum or it can be incorporated into an afterschool program. Second, the curriculum content can be reinforced in three different ways: the traditional pen-and-pencil format, an iPad application format, or a showcase format designed to develop deeper thinking skills.
"We realized that the best way to engage kids was by using animé technology. It is something kids love; it's full of color and energy; and it's the perfect medium for carrying the message," says Dr. Sondra Parmer, an Extension program associate for NEP. That led to Extension's developing one of the first and best nutrition and health apps that students use on the Apple iPad.
The final strength of this initiative is the inclusion of a unique assessment utilizing evidence-based research techniques that will provide strong support for the benefits of nutrition education.
"Promoting a healthy lifestyle is one of Extension's oldest teaching programs," says Dr. Gaines Smith, director of ACES. Body Quest fits perfectly into ACES' Health and Wellness Initiative because it incorporates research-based information, new technology, partnerships inside and outside of Extension, and it has the potential to make a significant impact on preventing childhood obesity, not only in Alabama but also throughout the nation."
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