A recent subcontract awarded to Jean Wiecha, Department of Exercise and Health Sciences Associate Professor, will focus on helping afterschool programs implement health promotion and chronic disease prevention efforts. While many interventions purport to change policies and practices in community settings, experience and research suggest that without ongoing staff coaching and program monitoring, change is hard to attain or sustain.
The focus of the YMCA Quality Improvement in Afterschool project is on developing “toolkits” that will help YMCA afterschool programs navigate the transition from current practice to best practice with respect to serving healthy snacks, providing enough physical activity, and creating a social context that supports healthy behavior. Dr. Wiecha has worked with YMCA of the USA since 2003 to develop standards for healthy eating and physical activity in school-aged child care. The standards include serving water and fruits or vegetables daily; eliminating sugar sweetened beverages and trans fats; reducing use of foods with added sugar; and increasing use of foods made with whole grains. The standards also include at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily, eliminating non-homework related screen time, and encouraging staff to be good role models. Dr. Wiecha’s project is funded through the Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Initiative.