Viewing posts categorised under: Ncptablog

Using Your Voice to Help Provide Access for All

Amy Kobos – Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

Did you know that 1 in 4 children in North Carolina are at risk for hunger, and that nearly 30% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty?

We can easily assume people come from the same place as us, and we even get wrapped up in our own bubble thinking everyone has similar advantages, but in reality we know this isn’t true. Many American children and families struggle. Don’t assume every student has the privilege to have college freely financed or have parents who can help with homework. Many children don’t even have the privilege to eat a healthy meal, have a safe place outside to exercise, or have a family member they can count on.

The opportunity to access health and healthy living across different populations and how various social determinants can impact this is what is called HEALTH EQUITY.

Examples of health inequity are:

  • Not having access to grocery stores that offer nutritious food. These neighborhoods are typically saturated with nearby convenient stores.
  • Inability to receive mortgage loans based on the zip code you reside. Data show that African-American populations are the most affected.
  • Not having access to safe places to exercise. Even if there is a park nearby, often it is an area where kids cannot go alone.
  • Not being able to receive adequate life skills education or school guidance in the home environment because of absence of parental figures/other support. Hispanic and African-American communities are at the highest risk, but is not limited to these populations.
  • Possessing a higher rate of chronic disease, low birth weight, mental illness, including suicidality based on sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and gender norms.

Health inequity negatively impacts child development. If a child does not have access, this will likely adversely affect his/her health in the future.

According to the World Health Organization, health inequities are “systematic, socially produced (and therefore modifiable) and unfair.” This can be bad, and this can be good; the good being that you have the power to improve it.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF HEALTH INEQUITY AND WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Social determinants affect health outcomes. The six major categories are:

  1. Economic stability: employment, medical bills, debt, expenses, etc.
  2. Neighborhood and physical environment: housing, transportation, walkability, playgrounds, etc.
  3. Education: literacy, language, early childhood education, etc.
  4. Food: hunger, access to healthy options, etc.
  5. Community and social context: social integration, racism, discrimination, social support systems, etc.
  6. The healthcare system.

You might think that we live in a very equally opportunistic country, but I can assure you this is false. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation provides us with a more in depth explanation of how this might be. But, YOU CAN help improve this as an NCPTA member by providing access and resources your students might not be able to get at home. Assume all children are at risk. Focus on a few of these social determinants in your school to improve health equity.

FOOD

  • Advocate for school lunches to be highly nutritious (whole foods vs. processed foods).
  • For the students receiving free lunches, connect with community partners, like Backpack Buddies and Mobile Meals to make sure students are receiving nutritious meals on the weekends and in the summers. Click here for additional information and programs which can assist students in North Carolina.
  • During fundraising or other school events/celebrations, ditch the pizza and ice cream. Instead, try celebrating with different ethnic themed cuisines and healthy ingredients (this also celebrates cultural diversity). Examples could be taco buffets, Greek salads, Indian curry, or Italian spaghetti with zucchini spirals for pasta. Ingredients could be donated and sponsored by local restaurants/grocers.
  • Provide education on how to create healthy meals on a small budget and/or without parental guidance.
  • Create and maintain a school community garden. This would assure students healthy food they could take home and cook. Buncombe County schools partner with FEAST (Fresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable, and Tasty) who incorporates classroom time dedicated to learning how to grow and cook your own food.

COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL CONTEXT

  • Connect with organizations, like Big Brothers Big Sisters or other student mentoring organizations, to offer support which hones in on developmental assets and/or assisting in helping prepare students who need an extra hand with homework.
  • Pair up every student with either a counselor/volunteer/teacher’s assistant/parent, etc. to check in throughout the semester to make sure students are able to get forms filled out, attain college prep and/or career literacy, able to meet registration deadlines (like driver’s education), ability to pay, being heard about any at-home obstacles students may be facing that may inhibit access to healthy living/learning opportunities. This can also act as assessment that could provide data to help receive funding for additional resources for students. We cannot assume every child has someone they can count on at home.
  • Require classes which prepare students for real life that emphasizes on professionalism and taking the initiative; for example, public speaking and career prep.

NEIGHBORHOOD AND PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

  • Require physical education classes every semester until graduation.
  • Incorporate physical activity in classroom learning.
  • Advocate for open use agreements allowing school facilities to be used by the community during non-school hours.
  • Advocate for secure, safe parks/green spaces to be built in lower-income/rural/urban neighborhoods.

Change isn’t going to happen globally or nationally overnight, but know that change will happen more rapidly and effectively if implemented on a local scale. This means you can be successful. Partner with community organizations and resources, make your team grow, be the role models, and set the example of how society can improve the future for our children and country. Strive to create access for all.

Connecting Your Students through Gratitude

Amy Kobos, Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

What makes our teachers great? Each one of us has a unique experience that has sculpted us into who we are. Some have had very challenging lives, while others have challenges that lie ahead. Our teachers realize this, and with skill and patience, they assist us in challenges and help us grow from them. What is this fuel which helps us progress through these obstacles? It could be a physical skill an instructor took the time to demonstrate that helped you learn how to take risks in life. It could be your 6th grade teacher who helped you understand a math skill so you could incorporate it into your adulthood. It could even be the parents who establish healthy boundaries in real life.

Gratitude is central to the holiday season and the New Year! What better time to encourage students to appreciate how teachers have helped them flourish in the classroom and beyond! Last month, we mentioned a gratitude activity in the “Rethink Your Holidays with 10 Healthy Tips,” article which focused on gratitude among classmates. This emphasized the uniqueness of what or who helps us get through the challenges in our lives. This also incorporated the value of interpersonal relationships, cultural diversity, and critical thinking into the classroom. Let’s take this a step further with your students so they can show gratitude for you!

Here are some ideas:

  • Make a gratitude jar for the teacher as a gift. Throughout the semester, each student could submit words of appreciation on how he/she has developed while in the classroom.
  • Integrate gratitude towards teachers in your students’ weekly journal entries.
  • Have the students collect and frame inspiring quotes that mean something them as a gift to the teacher.
  • Instead of students bringing in sweets to show appreciation, encourage the students and parents to put together healthier gifts, like fruit bouquets, yogurt parfaits, a pass to the local botanical gardens, or even gift card for a massage or Home Depot.

Gratitude isn’t just a tool we use for self-exploration and self-growth. Gratitude is a tool we use to connect. When students participate in activities like this, it helps them become aware of what facilitates their obstacles and progress. It develops a healthier state of mind by turning those “what ifs” into something more assuring, like “I’ll do fine no matter what.” Gratitude connects us to all of those little life events and people of which or whom we may have taken for granted. This forms a unique footprint which helps sculpt those bridges that we can utilize on whatever path we take.

Empowering Your Kids About Healthy Body Image Starts with YOU

By Amy Kobos, Health and Wellness Promotor, Fayetteville

This conversation is just as important as the birds and the bees.

You need to talk with your children and students about healthy body image. But, how can you talk to them if you aren’t sure what healthy body image is?  We have been flooded for decades with what we ‘think’ healthy body image is, only to religiously count calories, go on fad diets, exercise profusely and feel guilty for eating a dessert.  The media are saturated with focusing on weight loss and depicting skinny girls and boys – because this is what we should be.  We also give excuses for thinking it’s okay to skip meals: “I’m too busy to eat; I shouldn’t eat as much today because I ate a lot last night; I need to fit in those pants.”  This is the core of American culture’s perception of what healthy body image is.

To have this conversation, it needs to happen with you first.  Use these tools to facilitate exploration within yourself so you know how to convey this to your kids:

  • What is your definition of healthy body image?
  • Why do you feel America’s current perspective on healthy body image is how you have to be accepted in society?
  • What components are necessary in order to sustain healthy body image?
  • How do you prioritize your body to stay healthy?
  • Do you feel guilty or make excuses for your body’s needs? If so, why?

Each one of you is going to have different answers. This is okay!  Butyou need to sort out what’s healthy and what could be detrimental.
Read more.

Three Easy Ways to Make Time for YOU

Joelle Sevio RDH BS CPT is the former Health and Wellness Chair for the Wake County PTA Council and an ironman athlete and you can find more of her work at www.wellnessspecialist.net.

As parents, we make sure our kids are active, eat healthy foods, and don’t skip breakfast. So why don’t we hold ourselves to the same standards? Probably because our to-do lists are long: after work, kids, taking care of the house, and walking the dog, self-care is the thing that usually comes in last.

You’re thinking: yes, I know. As soon as we get through the holidays and January gets here I’ll do things differently. But what if you could get started NOW and start the year off feeling great?

It seems daunting, but like most major changes, taking it in steps is key. In my 15 plus years as a competitive athlete, as a mom, and working in the health and fitness industry, I have learned a strategy or two, and I’d like to share a few of them with you here. Your task is to implement ONE of these a week until they stick. Once you have a good handle on the first strategy, then move to the next.

1. Find the time for movement in your life. If your child has a sporting practice, use that time for physical activity and a digital detox. Use sidewalks or walk/run around their field where they are practicing (as long as you don’t embarrass them!) You may think 15-30 minutes isn’t enough but you will be surprised at the physical and psychological benefit you get from even a short amount of exertion. If you already have a good fitness base, don’t discount a short workout as opposed to no workout. Add intensity if you can’t go the distance. Other ideas include bike rides as a family, running while your child rides their bike or walking/running/riding your bike to the school to volunteer. If you are a working parent, use your lunchtime to fit a workout in.

My favorite way to hold yourself accountable is to make an appointment on your calendar.

2. Move towards a less-processed whole foods life. Look at what is in the food you are buying. If you have older kids, have then help you investigate the labels. How about this week switch out the chips and make baked potatoes? Buy one less processed item and one more item from the produce. Don’t feel guilty over the holidays when you have treats, because you are already making steps in the right direction. Focus on the fact that you are making progress! After all, you are on strategy #2 so that means you have conquered #1! It helps to have a mantra to repeat to yourself when you are in situations where you will tend to make food choices that aren’t the best. What will your mantra be?

3. Get your entire family involved in the kitchen. No one needs to be a gourmet cook. And let’s face it, what 3-6 year old doesn’t love cutting soft fruit with a dull spreading knife? If you have older kids, let them pick a night to cook or for you to cook together. Remember: think less processed and choose foods that grow from the Earth. Let’s get back to cooking and family time—family dinners should be a priority but most of us are over committed so you should feel like you have conquered #3 when family dinners are 2-3 times a week! I love using a crock pot or cooking in bulk. How about homemade pancakes for dinner and freeze some for breakfast on the weekend?

Change takes time and effort but since you are reading this, I know you are ready to get started on strategy #1. I have added a nutrient dense delicious recipe to help you start your journey. This is a great one for kids to make on their own or with a little help if they are under 8.

Oatmeal Bites

1 cup Oatmeal (organic if possible; oatmeal is naturally gluten free for those with a gluten allergy, but many brands of oatmeal are processed at facilities with gluten, so read the label)
½ cup nut butter (I like cashew for the extra iron or try organic peanut butter)
⅓ cup honey or maple syrup
½ cup ground flax seed (organic if possible)
¼-½ cup low sugar dark chocolate chips (55%or more chocolate for more nutrients)

Combine ingredients and mix together in a bowl. Roll mixture into bite size balls. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and enjoy! Store these in the refrigerator. These are great for lunches and for holiday parties without the guilt! These do have allergens including nut, so be mindful of what is safe for your family and what is allowed at your school!

100 Years of Advocating for Healthy Kids

Weant_Marianne_smallMarianne Weant
Director of Health Programs, North Carolina PTA

When we talked about featuring our advocacy priorities, this was the week I was looking forward to. When we’re talking about the health of children and advocacy, we’re talking about our shared history and we’ve come a long way.

The Past
PTA in North Carolina is nearly 100 years old, and I marvel at what we—what you—have accomplished in those years. 100 years ago, children often didn’t go to school. Children worked. They were breadwinners in their homes and workers in dangerous places in their communities. The earliest vaccinations were in their infancies. School meal programs were just being developed in urban areas in the north. When children were in school, they were in racially segregated schools. When I think about what moms faced on behalf of their child and every child just 100 years ago, I think of how far we’ve come together.

The Present
Today, we’d all agree that in so many ways, our children are safer and healthier. They’re in schools instead of in mills. But we still have a long way to go. We have new threats to our kids. Instead of adolescents in mills, we have adolescents struggling with technology and bullying. Substance abuse. Lack of physical activity and obesity. And still a full quarter of our children in North Carolina are food insecure. We still have a long way to go together.
Read more.

Rethink Your Holidays with 10 Healthy Tips

By Amy Kobos, Health and Wellness Promotor, Fayetteville

When thinking about how to make your holidays healthier, nutrition and physical activity seem to be the focus.  But, your health is more than that.  You need to include other wellness dimensions, like mental health, interpersonal relationships, choice and critical thinking.  I know you’ve seen inspirational lists all over the internet which can be inspiring, but how many of these health tips do you actually practice? You can’t create behavioral change if you can’t explore the reasons why you aren’t implementing a healthier lifestyle, period.

Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays particularly make us vulnerable to slip out of any health plans we have made for ourselves and our families throughout the year. You need to begin by asking yourself what’s going on in YOUR life that affects you and your family from making health a top priority around the holidays. Is it time? Is it money? Are you consumed by “normal” American society standards?  Are you afraid of getting out of your comfort zone? Do you feel guilty for taking care of yourself?

Tip 1:  Rethink Black Friday.

Black Friday is the hallmark of American consumerism.  Many companies even exercise Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day. Is it fair for employees to subject themselves to companies versus spending time with their families? Is it really necessary for you compete with others for the latest toy?  How does this define the importance of what the holidays are really supposed to be about?  Have this discussion with your kids. Did you know that the outdoor sports company, REI, is closed on Black Friday? They encourage the public to #optoutside in order to exercise what Mother Nature has to offer.

Tip 2:  Have Your Kids Make a Christmas List with Non-material Items.

Nearly 100% of kids’ Christmas lists comprise of material items.  What if you redefined “Christmas gifts”?  How would you and the kids prioritize life differently if only 20% of the Christmas list was material items?
Read more.

Meaningful Engagement Starts with PTA Membership

By Kelly Langston, NCPTA President

langston-family

Fall is here and we are well on our way to another great school year, or at least that is what I tell myself!

I sent two girls off to college in August, child number 3 back to high school and the baby back to middle school. It is hard to believe that I am a mother of four adolescents.   I knew how to be engaged when they were little. I volunteered; I read at night; I made sure they brushed teeth and got enough play outside; I joined the PTA. But as my children get older, I struggle a bit as engagement is redefined.

After much thought, I landed on this… Kids will always want to know we are there for them, regardless of their age. Living with four adolescents has been challenging and I am often reminded of my many flaws, my ridiculous ways of thinking and my very outdated beliefs. Teenagers have a way of making us question our parenting and they bring a new set of challenges, mainly bigger worries! But, I have learned… I am still needed now more than ever.
Read more.