The Medical University of South Carolina Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness addresses children’s health and development from birth through adolescence. In partnerships across the state, we are working to instill a culture of wellness and prevent obesity such that each child is healthy, succeeds in school and thrives in life.
The Medical University of South Carolina Boeing Center for Children’s Wellness, (http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/leanteam ) formerly known as the "Lean Team", began school-based obesity prevention efforts in 2007. This initial work was supported by grants from The Duke Endowment and SC Medicaid and included a partnership between the MUSC Division of Adolescent Medicine, led by Dr. Janice Key and Coleen Martin, and the Charleston County School District. In 2010 support from Boeing SC allowed establishment of the Center and replication of our program into a total of 13 school districts across SC. In 2014 we expanded our reach to include babies and young children when the SC Program for Infant and Toddler Care, led by early childcare expert, Kerrie Schnake, joined our team.
Our goal is to improve the health and wellness of all children in our participating schools and child care programs. Therefore we work directly with the school and child care staff who select and implement programs that will impact children. With this approach we are changing the culture of these schools and child care centers to one of wellness. Last year we were able to reach over 250 schools, 52 child care centers and more than 160,000 children.
Our school-based wellness model is the Docs Adopt School Health Initiative© (DASHI) http://academicdepartments.musc.edu/leanteam/DocsAdoptSHI )
This is not a single program but rather an implementation method through which schools select proven ways to make their students and staff healthier. We make it easy for schools to put in place what works best for them. In this way we motivate schools to become healthier places to learn, work, and play. Since 2010, we have reached over 150 schools in the tri-county area. Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester Counties all participate in this program. Schools utilize our online School Wellness Checklist© as their guide to implement wellness programs and policies of their choosing. The different wellness activities are assigned points so schools can also track what they have done from year to year. Schools who earn enough points (wellness changes) receive a monetary award that is used to make more wellness changes the following year. Examples of what schools have done include planting gardens, installing refillable water stations, using kinesthetic desks, providing additional PE and recess equipment, and holding fresh produce taste-testings.
Our Child care expansion, includes SC Program for Infant and Toddler Care (http://scpitc.org ) which improves health and wellness of babies and young children by improving the quality of child care services. We provide intensive on-site coaching and mentoring for staff at child care centers and host an annual advanced training conference for our infant-toddler specialists. We train teachers in use of a specific best practice approach, “relationship-based care”. This year we worked with 52 child care centers and trained 358 teachers and staff. As part of our work in child care centers, we are also piloting the Be Well Care Well project which focuses on the well-being of child care providers. The well-being of child care teachers greatly impacts their ability to be present and responsive to the social-emotional needs of the young children in their care.
We also encourgage continued breast feeding by working mothers with our new Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Designation (http://scpitc.org/breastfeeding-friendly-child-care ). The longer an infant continues breast feeding the less likely he/she is to be obese later in life. For that reason we are helping child care centers support and help these mothers. This designation is available to child care facilities through an application process. Since launching 2 years ago, 18 child care facilities have earned this designation.
Our newest project, the Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative provides a professional development pathway for infant, child and family-serving workforce sectors including child care givers, law enforcement, social workers and pediatricians. This ensures that these professionals will have the knowledge and skills to provide culturally sensitive, relationship-focused practices that support young children’s behavioral wellbeing.
A culture of wellness is as contagious as illness! Our work began at a time when the obesity epidemic was at an all time high yet few schools and child care facilities were actually implementing initiatives that could address the problem and make a significant impact. Today, more than 200 DASHI schools are healthier places to work and learn. Water has replaced sugary beverages as the go to drink, gardens have sprung up in the majority of schools, fundraisers have focused on fun-run challenges or non-food sales instead of junk food. Better child care is now a reality. Eighteen centers have earned our Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Designation and more than 500 child care professionals are taking advantage of our trainings, professional development, and resources. We are excited to be part of making this change happen.
Most of our activities and events are targeted to schools and child care programs. Wellness Leader Trainings are being hosted in the fall to share resources, tips and updates on the School Wellness Checklist©. The current dates for these events at the beginning of next school year are:
Dorchester County School District Two: September 12, 2018
Berkeley County School District: September 19, 2018 and September 26, 2018
Charleston County School District: TBD
Our team serves on the Obesity, Nutrition and Physical Activity workgroup. We are excited to see all of the community partners brought to the table and work to establish some cross-cutting goals with some of the other workgroups. We see Healthy Tri-County serving as a way to help us all have a collective impact on the Tri-County community and look forward to the implementation phase of the collaboration.