SPH student earns spot on inter-professional team: Teaches children to “grow” healthy lifestyles

Amanda Paugh, a second year Master of Public Health student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences participated in an AHEC Inter-professional Team project addressing childhood obesity.  WVU Health Sciences students Megan Beal (Pharmacy), Brittany Brummage (Dental Hygiene), Elysa Hoard (Nursing), Emma Moore (Nursing), and Amanda Paugh (Public Health) traveled to the Wee Train Day Care in Belington, WV where they held an obesity intervention and education initiative.  Lew Holloway, Executive Director at NWVRHEC, facilitated the inter-professional team, led by Jillian Rogers (Medicine) in June. 
“Because obesity rates are so high in West Virginia, we felt as a group that we were addressing a community need. Targeting a child population to prevent and reduce obesity was an endeavor that we found very exciting,” Amanda explains.  The entire project took about a month to complete; its objective was to get the class of 25 children excited about growing their own foods to encourage healthful habits. During the month, each team member chose a task that would teach children how and why to eat healthy foods.
The children were shown steps to “grow a lettuce wrap” which essentially uses lettuce in place of a  tortilla as a sandwich wrap. Amanda played a My Plate game with the children, which showed them how much food in healthy categories should be on their plates. Following the plate activity, the team provided containers for the children to decorate as planters for garden starter kits. The planters were made from recycled home products such as milk cartons and juice containers; the team wanted to show the kids that they could easily continue this project at home with the use of their own homemade containers. 
When the children finished planting the lettuce, team members taught them how to make lettuce wraps to eat as a snack. The wraps included turkey, cheese, carrots, cucumbers, and lettuce. They also provided low-fat milk. Before leaving the daycare, the team gave each child a backpack that included a chart for healthy foods and activities, additional seeds for growing, gardening tools and products, as well as recipes that incorporated the plants of the seeds provided.  
“The response to the project was the most rewarding part of this entire experience. One mother at the daycare told me that it would be a miracle if we could get her son to try lettuce. He not only ate all of the lettuce, but also excitedly asked his mom if they could make the garden kit recipes at home. So often in public health, we are asked to identify the overall effect of an intervention by presenting statistics and averages. This project reminded me that there are successes on an individual level that are both significant and inspiring.”  
Amanda concludes, “This was a great experience in that it allowed me to work as part of a team with a variety of other health professions while simultaneously showing the importance of my own role in the community as a public health professional in training.”

Many projects will be carried forward by future teams, each one building on the last team's efforts, and creating new solutions for community health problems.