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Project Believe Launches Programs to Address Overweight and Physical Activity

$250,000 in Funding Supports Interventions in Inner City Schools, Community Centers

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Close to 5,000 children and adults from Rochester’s inner city neighborhoods will begin learning about the benefits of good nutrition and increased physical activity as a result of four Project Believe interventions being launched throughout the city. A fifth Project Believe program, aimed at improving behavioral and emotional functioning among Hispanic children and their families, is also underway.

Introduced in October 2000, Project Believe is a community-wide initiative led by the University of Rochester Medical Center to help make Rochester America’s healthiest community by 2020. Since that time, Medical Center faculty and their community partners have created and implemented more than two dozen health interventions. Priority areas for Project Believe in 2003 include addressing overweight and obesity, physical activity, environmental quality (lead poisoning), access to healthcare and immunizations.

The five programs were generated from the Project Believe Small Grants program. Medical Center faculty and staff submitted 22 proposals in late 2002, and the five programs selected received grants ranging from $36,000 to $55,000. To be eligible for the grant, programs needed to address obesity/physical activity or a health disparity issue, and required a partnership with a community organization. Last year, a similar Project Believe program launched four community programs addressing issues such as adolescent tobacco cessation, healthcare access and nutrition.

"We wanted to concentrate on the overweight/obesity epidemic because of the far-ranging effects it has on an individual’s health, from early on-set of Type II diabetes, to hypertension to cardiovascular disease," Andrea Lennon, director of Project Believe at the Medical Center, said. "By making community collaboration a requirement of the grant, we are assured that these interventions were created with community input and participation."

Brief descriptions of each of the programs are below; detailed fact sheets on each program are available by emailing

  • Nutrition Exercise Education Program. The Department of Community and Preventive Medicine designed this nutrition and exercise program to determine if regular lesson plans can increase children’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for healthy foods and regular exercise. The program targets 700 inner city children, ages 6 through 12, who are enrolled in established food programs: Kids’ Café and summer lunch programs run by FoodLink, and School 7 Saturday morning program run by the School of Medicine’s Student Outreach Office.
  • RUNFit--Rochester Urban Nutrition and Fitness Initiative
  • . Created by the Department of Pediatrics, RUNFit seeks to create best practice guidelines for evaluation and treatment of overweight children. The program will establish a benchmark for childhood obesity in the city of Rochester and the rate at which primary care providers actively address a child’s weight problem, and catalog all available community resources for obese and/or overweight children and adults. In addition, the YMCA will help design an eight-week program for approximately 4,000 children between 8-12. The children will be referred from pediatric practices at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong and Culver Medical Group.
  • COPE/Healthy Children: Creating Opportunities for Personal/Parent Empowerment
  • . COPE, developed jointly by the School of Nursing and Visiting Nurse Service, aims to reduce the risk of Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other negative physical and mental outcomes in 144 inner city children aged 4 to 18 who are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. The program combines traditional educational sessions on nutrition and physical activity with a strong mental health component designed to motivate, build self-esteem and develop coping skills to help kids maintain healthy lifestyle habits after completion of the program. COPE also includes a monthly coaching session for parents to reinforce the ideas and attitudes being taught to their children. Children attending East High School and four inner city child care centers are eligible to participate in the program.
  • Train to Sustain: A University Community Partnership to Promote Healthy Living
  • . The Department of Medicine created a novel approach to promote healthy behaviors among adults from underserved populations by training 16 individuals from these communities as certified fitness instructors/peer health counselors. Upon completion of the certification process, the program will help to place individuals in community-based organizations in the northeast and southeast quadrants of the city to increase the availability of ongoing physical activity classes for adults. Helping to implement the program are Center for Lifetime Wellness, HEALTH ACTION’s Healthy Living Partnership, Congregation Healthy Heart Action Partnership, and the Monroe County Health Department.
  • Fostering Resilience Among Hispanic Children in the Rochester City School District
  • . This program builds on the Promoting Resilient Children Initiative (PRCI) already being implemented by the Department of Psychiatry in the Rochester City School District. PRCI is a comprehensive prevention program for children ages 6 to 9 who are at high risk of developing behavior problems and poor educational outcomes. PRCI provides behavioral and emotional skill building for these children through a school-based mentor and specialized training and support sessions for their parents and teachers. The Project Believe grant money will be specifically directed at fine-tuning and expanding the program to reach approximately 40 Hispanic children attending School No. 9.

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