Tag Archives: school health

Three Schools On Their Way To Healthy Change

Three Chatham County schools have spent the past year planning different ways to get their students more physically active, and their planning is about to pay off. Bonlee, Horton Middle, and Moncure schools will be building some exciting new projects on their campuses this spring with the help of an Eat Smart Move More grant from the State of North Carolina. Click to read more about these projects!


Eat a Rainbow Week 2011 a Big Success!

School Health Liaison, Ellie Morris, with students' artwork

The creativity and dedication of many different organizations and individuals all over Chatham County led to a successful Eat a Rainbow Week 2011, coordinated and led by Ellie Morris, School Health Liaison with the Chatham County Public Health Department.  Participants included all of Chatham County Schools 10 primary and elementary sites as well as local businesses and restaurants, the CCCC Natural Chef Program, and the Chatham Community Library in Pittsboro. 

The Eat a Rainbow focus at the schools meant that students got to snack on and fill their cafeteria trays with a variety of fruits and vegetables over the course of the week. Thanks to cafeteria staff, teachers, and parents at all 10 schools, students tried new foods such as kiwi, seaweed, squash, celery, and purple cabbage.

One staff member at Virginia Cross Elementary told Ms. Morris, “I really enjoyed the salad because it had flavorful greens like chard in it. The students were wary at first, but when I pointed out the many leaves and explained how tasty they were, they were more willing to try it out.”   

Students also learned about healthy eating in class, and with the guidance of their art teachers, created fruit and vegetable themed artwork to decorate their cafeterias and local restaurants. 

The Chatham Community Library spread the Eat a Rainbow message to young children and their families by reading food-related books during their story times and making a prominent display of their favorite food-themed children’s books.

Restaurants in Siler City, Silk Hope and Pittsboro displayed artwork from Virginia Cross, Perry Harrison, Pittsboro Elementary and Silk Hope School students which was enjoyed by the students, restaurant staff, and customers.  A few restaurants also made a point of highlighting fruits and vegetables on their menus during the week.

Some dishes of note included the Catherine’s Cranberry Pecan Salad at S & T’s Soda Shoppe, the rainbow-colored Veggie Cobb Salad at Virlie’s, a dish with locally grown purple sweet potato and collards at Angelina’s Kitchen, and a vibrant butternut squash soup at the CCCC Natural Chef Café.  Chatham Marketplace encouraged residents to Eat a Rainbow by discounting a different color of produce every day. 

You can learn more about Eat a Rainbow and view a slideshow of Eat a Rainbow Week 2011 activities at www.chathampublichealth.com/eat-a-rainbow.

If you have questions about Eat a Rainbow Week or would like to be involved in the future, contact Ellie Morris, School Health Liaison with the Chatham County Public Health Department at 919-545-8514 or elizabeth.morris@chathamnc.org.


Health Educator Wins School Health Champion Award

Public Health Educator, Ellie Morris was recently honored at the UNC basketball game with the School Health Champion Award for February 2011. The School Health Champion honor is awarded to a healthy role model who demonstrates outstanding leadership in advancing school-based policies and programs improving the health of students and/or staff.  The award is sponsored by the NC Department of Public Instruction and the NC State Board of Education in partnership with the local Subway Franchisees and Tar Heel Sports Properties.

As the February winner, Ellie will receive $500 for use in by the School Health Advisory Council to advance health related efforts. In addition, she received a plaque awarded at the February 19th UNC-CH basketball game.  Ellie will now advance into competition for the School Health Champion of the Year Award to be chosen in December 2011.

Ellie was nominated by George Greger–Holt and the School Health Advisory Council for the leadership and advocacy role she has played in promoting the “Coordinated School Health Program”.  Ellie is an integral part of the School Health Advisory Council representing the Chatham County Public Health Department.  According to Greger-Holt, “Ellie has been the driving force behind several student and staff health initiatives as well as a partner with Chatham County Schools on several wellness grants.  Her expertise, leadership, enthusiasm and perseverance are vital to our success.”

Currently, Ms. Morris is working with Chatham County Schools on initiatives such as Eat a Rainbow Week, Healthy Habits Campaign, and Just Push Play.

For more information on Coordinated School Health, contact Ellie Morris at Elizabeth.morris@chathamnc.org or call the Chatham County Public Health Department at 545-8514.


Back to School Health Initiatives

The Chatham County Public Health Department (CCPHD) and Chatham County Schools (CCS) have been preparing for some exciting school health activities this upcoming school year.  Take a look at what’s in store for our schools, students, and school staff!

Healthy Habits Campaign

New ClassroomThis year marks the pilot of the Healthy Habits Campaign, a project that the CCPHD and CCS have collaborated on to help teachers and schools promote health.  The Healthy Habits Campaign has assigned each month a healthy habit theme (for example, September’s theme is healthy eating) and will provide teachers and schools with resources for promoting each month’s theme.

This approach has been inspired by CCS’ existing Character Education program, general social marketing principles, and the CDC’s Coordinated School Health Model. Giving each topic a month or in some cases two months of focus will hopefully be an effective way of helping each health message to sink in and lead to students making healthier choices. Keep an eye on the Chatham County Public Health Department’s Healthy Habits Campaign website for updates and more information.

School Wellness Constitution

The Chatham County Public Health Department and Chatham County’s Team Fit have created a new tool to help schools plan for and institutionalize healthy changes.  Those schools that complete the school wellness constitution planning tool will receive a copy of their school’s wellness constitution to post in their school.  This document will be a fun way to demonstrate and remind community members of the school’s commitment to promoting health during the school day. To learn more about the school wellness constitution planning tool or start the process at your school, contact Ellie Morris, School Health Liaison with the Chatham County Public Health Department at 919-545-8514 or elizabeth.morris@chathamnc.org.

Health Presentations

The Chatham County Public Health Department will continue its popular health presentations program in the county’s classrooms this schools year.  Public Health Educators and other staff from the CCPHD offer presentations for K-12 classes on nutrition, physical activity, reproductive health, and many other topics.  CCPHD staff are also available to present workshops for school staff and parent groups. Last year, we gave 136 presentations, reaching students in all grades, and this year we hope to do even more.  Download our updated list of presentations at www.chathamnc.org/schoolhealth.

Just Push Play

The Chatham County Public Health Department worked with Bonlee, Moncure and Horton Middle School this past spring to secure an Eat Smart Move More Community grant to help increase students’ physical activity at these schools.  To work toward this goal, this year, these schools will begin implementing Be Active NC’s Just Push Play program.  They worked over the summer to start pulling together school wellness teams, and this fall these teams will begin meeting and planning for healthy changes for their schools.  Between the work of these schools and other projects happening all over the county, there will be a lot of exciting school health news this year, so stay tuned!

If you have questions about or are interested in learning more about any of the initiatives included in this post, please contact Ellie Morris, School Health Liaison with the Chatham County Public Health Department at 919-545-8514 or elizabeth.morris@chathamnc.org.


Q&A with Public Health Interns

Public Health Interns, Abby Lowe and Alison Mendoza

This summer, the Community Health Promotion and Advocacy Division (CHPA) of the Chatham County Public Health Department has been privileged to host two Masters of Public Health students from the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. They are both completing their practicum (similar to an internship) with us, a requirement of their academic program. In this blog post, Alison Mendoza and Abby Lowe will share why they chose to work at CHPA, what their projects are, and lessons learned from the experience so far.

Why did you choose to work with CHPA for your summer practicum?

Alison: I chose to spend my summer with CHPA because I wanted to gain experience working in public health initiatives that were not part of university-supported projects.  I was specifically interested in government work because I have been inspired by the progressive strides of the New York City Health Department, and I see great potential in the ability of a health department to affect the lives of millions of people.  Finally, my interest in community engagement made assisting with soliciting community input for Chatham County’s Community Health Assessment (CHA) an excellent match. I’ve been working with Healthy Chatham Coordinator/Communications Specialist, Marissa Jelks on the health assessment.

Abby:  I wanted to work at a health department for my practicum because I had never worked for a government agency in any capacity. I had worked for the past four years for a non-profit promoting school-based physical activity programming before, during, and after school in cities around the country. However, I wanted to gain experience with other health education activities about topics besides physical activity. Working with Chatham County’s School Health Liaison, Ellie Morris  provided that opportunity.

What is the focus of your work?

Alison: My main role, as part of the Community Health Assessment (CHA) team, has been to conduct interviews with community members about quality of life and health matters.  The CHA is conducted every four years to determine the health department’s priorities and direction for the coming four years.  In order to assist with identifying the top health priorities in Chatham County, my next major task is to compile fact sheets, based on information from approximately 40 community interviews, for various health and community issues such as obesity, recreation, and transportation.   You can learn more about the 2010 Chatham County CHA here: www.chathamnc.org/Index.aspx?page=1331.

Abby: The summer started with a literature review of effective instructional strategies for school-based health education.  Pulling information from many sources, I’ve been able to compile some useful information to provide CHPA’s Public Health Educators support in preparing engaging and impactful health presentations for students in Chatham County. From this research, I have helped develop several tools and resources to help health educators plan and deliver effective presentations. This week, I will co-facilitate a two-hour interactive training for CHPA and other health department staff to learn about these new tools and get some practice using them.

I have also written lesson plans for sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention that classroom teachers can implement after a CHPA educator has presented, and helped mastermind a new School Wellness Constitution that will be unveiled this summer and fall to principals. The School Wellness Constitution is a written commitment from the school that they will pursue particular actions in order to support the health of students, staff, families, and to create a healthy school environment.  

What have you learned so far from your work with CHPA?

Alison: I have learned a great deal from my mentors and colleagues at CHPA.  The people with whom one works can be just as important as the work itself, and having an enthusiastic team backed by strong leadership is necessary to make any significant advances in public health.  I am learning how to balance the limited time and resources available in the field with the rigorous theoretical methodologies learned in class, a challenge that all public health professionals must handle.  Finally, through my interaction with the community members and analysis of interviews, I have learned about the strengths, challenges, joys, beauty, and hardships of the people of Chatham County. It’s this “human side” of public health that drew me to this field in the first place and inspires me to continue working in public health.

Abby: One hundred and sixty hours in, I have learned a few things. First of all, literature reviews are challenging. Secondly, in school we learn a lot of theories about why people behave in certain ways or make particular health decisions; in the classroom, it doesn’t seem all that useful. Doing the literature review and writing lesson plans both allowed me to experience applying theory in useful ways. Third, public health is desperate for more “practice-based evidence,” rather than solely evidence that comes from randomized control trials in distant places. People who do this work on a daily basis – health department health educators, health teachers, etc. – have insightful things to say about what works and what doesn’t. We should listen to them when designing health programming. Finally, in a broad sense, it’s clear that coordination, cooperation and a common vision are integral to achieving better quality of life among residents of a place. Lots of folks have to work on similar issues from different angles in order to move the mountain.

We have both learned a lot and will continue moving forward with these projects and the dissemination of results in the fall. Stay tuned!