"Building on the successes of the past two years with HealthWatchers at School, we are anticipating another great year," according to Joy Grady, Executive Director of the sponsoring agency, Bladen HealthWatch. "The public will see some things repeated this year based on their previous successes, such as our physical activity, walking campaign. We also have new, encouraging ideas on our agenda aimed at equipping students and their families with survival skills to help prevent chronic diseases.
"Our theme for this year is 'Be A Survivor: Reduce Chronic Disease,' and we will be working with our students and staff to emphasize lifestyle changes necessary to reduce risks of chronic disease from even very young ages, including parents too."
This year the HealthWatchers at School program will place special attention on the reduction of risk factors for chronic diseases and the links between 'survivor' behaviors such as regular physical activity (like walking), a healthy diet, and avoiding the use of tobacco products. In Bladen County, heart disease, cancer and diabetes are chronic diseases which account for many of the deaths each year but, in many cases, simple lifestyle changes can bring about tremendous positive impact on one's risk for these chronic diseases.
For the third year, the HealthWatchers at School program of Bladen Health Watch has issued a challenge ot Bladen County Schools' students and staff to walk towards improved health during a two-month physical activity campaign. "WALK 2003: Survival of the Fit" will challenge students and staff to record miles walked in order to earn fun "survivor" incentives in addition to reaping personal health benefits.
During the first two years of the HealthWatchers at School program's physical activity campaigns, "WALK 2001" and WALK 2002: A Walk in the WildSide," over 90,000 miles walked were recorded by Bladen County Schools' students and staff. Over 100 Bladen student achieved the 100 miles walked level during last year's campaign.
"We are so very excited about the possibilities for 'WALK 2003: Survival of the Fit,' said Grady. "Students and staff have so many positive things to say about the previous WALK experiences-we can't wait to see what milestones are met with WALK 2003!"
September and October will be busy months for the HealthWatchers at School program. As part of "WALK 2003: A Survival of the Fit," the program will be sponsoring community walk special events around Bladen County to encourage families and friends, students and staff to take advantage of this opportunity to practice healthy behaviors. The community walks, 11 in all, will be held on various dates during September and October. The Bladen Journal will publish the dates and times as they near.
A highlight of the 2003 community walks will be the addition of six new Sneaker Net walking trails around the county. Sneaker Net walking trails are measured, safe locations for walking in the county. Bladen HealthWatch introduced Sneaker Net trails in Elizabethtown in 1997 as part of its efforts to offer opportunities to improve the overall health of Bladen County. The expansion of the Sneaker Net trails is part of the HealthWatchers at School program funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
Walkers who participate in community walks at Clarkton School of Discovery, Dublin Elementary School, Bladenboro Middle School, Elizabethtown Primary School, East Bladen High School, and West Bladen High School will be guided by signs that mark distances and remind walkers of healthy practices.
In addition to the physical activity campaign, the nutrition campaign, March Madness will be back in the spring.
"We will be focusing attention on tobacco use in our county by taking part in two national campaigns, Great American SmokeOut in November, and Kick Butts Day in March," Grady said.
Other strategies in the HealthWatchers at School plans for this year include working with Bladen County Schools' Child Nutrition program and Bladen County Health Department to implement Winner's Circle in the Schools, a schools-based version of the familiar Winner's Circle program which promotes healthy dining options for restaurant patrons. Healthier choices will be available in school menus and cafeterias. Additionally, Bladen County Schools' students who violate the schools' discipline policy regarding tobacco products will be referred to after-school tobacco education programs conducted by HealthWatchers at School staff.
The HealthWatchers at School Peer Encouragers, rising high school juniors and seniors at East Bladen and West Bladen High Schools, have been busy over the summer break learning their roles and becoming prepared for the coming year's HealthWatchers at School Activities by participating in two intense training sessions. Their role in the HealthWatchers at School program will be to model healthy behaviors and habits, such as proper nutrition, being physically active, and being tobacco-free for their peers, and others, in their communities as they promote and encourage participation in the various programs and campaigns undertaken by HealthWatchers at School during the school year.
Peer Encouragers at East Bladen are Antoine Lynch, Ricci Kearney, Shayla Jessup and Estella Johnson. West Bladen Peer Encouragers are Laureen Rhoden, Kathryn King, Allison Robinson and Crystal Abbott.
The Peer Encouragers are chosen by a school-based committee, based on criteria set forth by Bladen HealthWatch, which includes maintenance of a 2.5 grade point average, a clean discipline record, maturity, leadership skills, and possession of personal healthy behaviors.
Another high profile group in the HealthWatchers at School camp is the School Liaisons, staff persons from each school site chosen by the principal to serve as promoters of health education information between HealthWatchers at School and the school-site staff, to assist other staff to reinforce healthy lifestyle behaviors, and to encourage student and staff participation in healthy lifestyle behaviors. School Liaisons will participate in training sessions to prepare for the activities scheduled for their schools.
School liaisons from the 14 Bladen County Schools' campuses who will serve as extensions of the HealthWatchers at School team are: Martha Lewis and Teresa Hege at Booker T. Washington Primary; Jeff Atkinson and Robbie Priest at Elizabethtown Middle; Phyllis Powers and Andy Clark at West Bladen; Pam Stephens at Bladenboro Primary; Amanda Thomas and Tonya Landreth at Bladen Lakes; Claudette Norris and Nancy Clark at Clarkton School of Discovery; William Bohannon at Dublin Elementary; Sarah Bosak and Vonzell Chancy at East Arcadia; Patty Nance and Patty Evers and East Bladen; Nancy Willis and Noel Edge at Elizabethtown Primary; Brenda Rhodie and Nancy Scarboro at Plain View; Angela Brown and Tonya Brown at School of Extended Hope; Jerry Singletary and Nancy Fields at Bladenboro Middle; and Robin Nance and Michelle Nance at Tar Heel Middle.
For additional information on HealthWatchers at School, contact the HealthWatchers at School staff at Bladen HealthWatch, located inside the Healthy Lifestyle Center on Broad Street in Elizabethtown. The phone number is 862-1499.