"Fun & Fit"

Last week the current Management Academy teams presented their feasibility plans in a session that includes brief presentations and Q & A. This session brings out the meaning of “teamwork” for the Management Academy – it is clear at times like this that we’re all on the team: everyone in that room was there to understand the plans and help make each a better final product. We were lucky, too, to have two special guests: Dorothy Cilenti, a former North Carolina local public health director who is currently Deputy Director for Operations and Management at the NC Institute for Public Health, and Rosemary Summers, current Orange County Health Director.

One of the teams is proposing a program called “Fun & Fit,” which will be a summer day camp created to address childhood obesity. A structured camp for children between the ages of five and 14, “Fun & Fit” will incorporate play, cooking, field trips, swimming, sports, and gardening to encourage children to be active and make healthy food choices. It will also contain evening classes for parents and children on nutrition and health. The partners include the county school system, a local aquatics center, Smart Start, the local 4-H chapter, and the local campus of the state university, which will provide student interns to work with the children. It will be an eight-week program during the summer, with follow-up during the school year. The program will be subsidized through the Department of Social Services.

What are some of the challenges for a project like this? Some questions raised had to do with medical participation. Dr. Summers asked who would provide on-site medical supervision? And, perhaps it could be a prescription program, with doctors “prescribing” it for overweight or at-risk children. Would that help it be covered by insurance? Would that help the program planners target the children who would most need it? Related to targeting children, another question was raised about the program’s marketing: how would such a program be marketed so as to avoid stigmatizing children who attend? The team answered that it plans to target all children and avoid a stigma, which led one attendee to suggest that then they might only get the concerned parents whose children are not necessarily overweight or at risk, those who are already thinking about healthy behaviors and choices. The group ended by brainstorming ideas for encouraging participation – they could use active video games to “meet the kids where they are” – even offering such games as prizes for meeting healthy eating or activity goals. That team might have to go find another partner – maybe a video game company or store – who would donate things that could be incentives for the children.

Other challenges might be regulatory issues. Studies show that regulatory issues are the second most common reason given by MAPH students for plans not getting off the ground. Also, public health planners often neglect to “think like a business” when it comes to marketing. Marketing for a program like this might target doctors, parents, children themselves, and schools, and the marketing plan would have to comprise more than just public service announcements. There are a lot of competitors for children’s time in the summer.

What do you think? Can you -- our Community of Practice -- think of other ideas that would help this team make "Fun & Fit" the best plan it could be?

-- Anne