Winona Health’s Healthy Kids program kicked off in fall 2007 as Healthy Kids Club, with the goal to engage, educate and promote a healthy lifestyle to children ages 5 to 12. Collaborating with more than 20 local organizations and public, private and charter schools, we offer three annual major events for children and families, creating opportunities to reinforce healthy living choices so they become a natural part of children’s daily lives.
Each Healthy Kids event offers opportunities for children to try something new, such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, karate, yoga, Zumba, casting a fishing pole and running an obstacle course. While the overarching goal is to reduce childhood obesity rates, the focus is on teaching children that being active and eating nutritious food is fun and feels good. The focus of the Healthy Kids activities is primarily on the children but has the added benefit of drawing parents and families into the discussion. When families learn as a unit about making healthy choices, those choices can be reinforced and become a natural part of life for them.
In 2015, as an extension of Healthy Kids, we launched GR8 Kids, an eight-week classroom program for fourth-graders covering nutrition, active living, kindness and aspects of mental health. We conduct pre- and post-program evaluations to track results and improve the program as it grows.
Healthy Kids is about engaging families and reducing barriers to involvement. Since its inception in 2007, we’ve served more than 10,000 children and their families. In fiscal year 2016, Healthy Kids served 5,900 children and family members. After piloting GR8 Kids at one elementary school in 2016, we extended the program to four elementary schools in 2017, with the help of 30 students at Winona State University who have been trained to help lead the curriculum.
Presenting GR8 Kids through the schools has allowed us to reach a wider audience that may have been underrepresented earlier. We need to do more to engage children from disadvantaged or ethnic populations, such as partnering with community organizations that may be more connected to those families. Healthy Kids participants routinely provide favorable feedback about our events and express a desire for more free, health-focused family activities.
With the additional assistance of students from Winona State University, we are expanding GR8 Kids programming to all of our local elementary schools, reaching virtually every fourth-grader in our community. We are continuing to collaborate with other entities, especially on events, that serve the youth of our community to reach a diverse population and meet children and families where they are. This enables us to have a wider impact by harnessing community and volunteer resources. We are collecting longitudinal data so we can track the influence of the programs over time and school years.
Contact: Betsy Midthun
Vice President, Community Engagement