Southeast Students Sharing 9-5-2-1-0 Healthy Message with Nell Holcomb Youth

treadmillCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 7, 2016 – Nine-Five-Two-One-Zero is the message Southeast Missouri State University students hope to share with students at Nell Holcomb School March 22 during an all-day health fair spearheaded by Southeast.

Nearly 70 Southeast students will encourage the youth there to follow these daily habits:

  • Sleep nine hours;
  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables;
  • Participate in two or fewer hours of electronic screen time;
  • Engage in one hour of exercise; and
  • Drink no sugary beverages.

The first time health fair at the school is a joint effort of Southeast’s programs in dietetics; health, human performance and recreation; and nursing; the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center; and the Cape Girardeau Healthy Communities Coalition (HCC).

The HCC was established in 2013 as a result of a community needs assessment done by SoutheastHEALTH and Saint Francis Medical Center. Organizations throughout Cape Girardeau County area have come together in this coalition to help reduce obesity and chronic health problems for area residents.

The health fair idea surfaced with the Coalition last year in an effort to begin introducing healthy eating habits to children in the community at a young age. Nell Holcomb welcomed the idea and asked to take part.

Dr. Jeremy Barnes, professor of health, human performance and recreation; Dr. Linda Garner, assistant professor of nursing; Dr. Anne Marietta, associate professor of human environmental studies; Dr. Molly Timlin, associate professor of human environmental studies; and Joel Ramdial, Southeast instructor of dietetics; all at Southeast Missouri State University have been working with Liz House and Jane Wernsman of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, and Barbara Kinder of Nell Holcomb School to coordinate the event.

Throughout the day, about 300 K-8th grade Nell Holcomb students will rotate through a variety of stations in their school gym dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles, said Ramdial. At each booth, students will get educational information and participate in a related activity.

Southeast nursing students in Garner’s NS492 “Community Health” course will promote the sleep and limited electronic screen time messages. The importance of eating five servings daily of fruits and vegetables and no sugary beverages will be promoted by Southeast students in HE520 “Techniques of Teaching Nutrition and Health Education,” FN525 “Nutrition Counseling” and FN504 “Medical Nutrition Therapy II.” Dr. Jeremy Barnes’ HL 490 “Health Promotion, Programs, Planning and Evaluation” students in the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation will focus on the need for one hour of daily exercise.

“I hope our students get a lot out of it. The experience of teaching real children in the community” is invaluable, Ramdial said. “I hope they really make an impact in these children’s lives.”

Ramdial said he hopes the health fair opens the door and marks the start of a cooperative effort for the Coalition and the University to partner with other schools in the community to spread these important health messages. He said planting these seeds with elementary age students is critical.

“They are a captive audience and they need that influence,” he said, adding discussions about chronic disease and obesity are most effective at a young age. “The more likely we are to stick to them (healthy habits) as adults when we hear about them as children.”

In connection with the event, Southeast dietetic students also will meet with Nell Holcomb school lunch staff to learn about the budgetary and nutritional considerations they must make in developing school lunch menus. The Southeast students will tour the school’s kitchen facilities and their equipment. They then will be charged with developing a school lunch menu based on the information they gather.

“Theoretically, they (Nell Holcomb) could use the menus” the Southeast students develop, he said.

The idea, he says, is to introduce the Southeast students to school lunch menu planning.

As a part of the day’s events, the Southeast students will also eat in the Nell Holcomb School cafeteria along with the elementary school students to get an up-close look at school lunches and school nutrition.

Also participating in the day’s events will be Southeast’s Rowdy the Redhawk, several community organizations, along with businesses throughout the Cape Girardeau community that have donated prizes with healthy incentives, such as tickets to Cape Splash.

Ramdial says the Southeast students are developing a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the health fair. Nell Holcomb students will complete a survey both before and after the event, to determine if students’ knowledge regarding healthy choices improves as a result of their efforts.

“I am excited to see how it impacts our Southeast students and the Nell Holcomb students,” Ramdial said. “It should be a good learning experience for all of the students. Our students are pretty excited about it.”