December 2, 2013—The second phase of the landmark Colorado program "Healthy Eaters, Lifelong Movers" (HELM2) recently received a $3.1 million grant from the Colorado Health Foundation. The funding of HELM2 will ensure the continuation of high quality health and physical education to 46 K-12 schools in the San Luis Valley and expand the program's reach to 73 additional schools in southeast Colorado.
Nick Cutforth, professor of research methods and statistics at the University of Denver's Morgridge College of Education discusses the significant health benefits this program will provide young people in Colorado.
Q: Describe the "Healthy Eaters, Lifelong Movers" program.
NC: Healthy Eaters Lifelong Movers is a partnership between the Morgridge College of Education and the University of Colorado School of Public Health's Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center. The purpose is to improve the academic success of students in K-12 schools in the San Luis Valley and southeastern Colorado by increasing opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity, and high quality physical education.
From 2010-13, The Colorado Health Foundation funded HELM1, using two approaches to increase student opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating in the San Luis Valley's 14 school districts: AIM (Assess, Investigate, Make it Happen) and the Physical Education Academy (PEA).
Q: How has the first HELM program already made a positive impact on schools and communities in the San Luis Valley?
NC: HELM1 has resulted in:
• A 66% increase in elementary school students' moderate to vigorous physical activity in PE
• The implementation of 100 evidence-based changes to increase students' opportunities for
physical activity and healthy eating during the school day.
• San Luis Valley PE teachers forming their own professional learning community–PE4SLV.
• Adams State University's Department of Human Performance and Physical Education is now
providing graduate-level professional development opportunities for PE teachers.
Q: What excites you the most about the new grant and the future of HELM2?
NC: The Colorado Health Foundation has funded "HELM2" to the tune of $3.1 million which enables us to continue to partner with 46 K-12 schools in the San Luis Valley and expand the program's reach to 73 additional schools.
Q: How has your work at the University of Denver been instrumental in forging a partnership with the University of Colorado School of Public Health's Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center (RMPRC)?
NC: In 2006, I was asked by the RMPRC to assist them with their community partnerships in the San Luis Valley and to incorporate qualitative research methods into their evaluation approaches. Since then, the partnership has grown and I have assisted the RMPRC on several research projects as co-principal investigator, co-investigator, and qualitative research director.
Over the past seven years, several University of Denver graduate students have contributed to the success of HELM1 by applying evidence-based research. Currently, HELM2 seeks to support practice and policy changes that will strengthen childhood obesity prevention efforts in rural Colorado moving forward.