Taking the initiative

Community Hospital supports wellness program of Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County

If you watch popular television or pore over the teen tabloids, it’s hard to imagine there is an overweight child anywhere. Yet outside the sphere of airbrushing and anorexia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that, since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has more than doubled, andamong adolescents has more than tripled.

That adds up to more than just a perception problem. It’s a growing health concern. Excess weight is a risk factor for health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and it is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

For those reasons and more, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County launched the Wellness Initiative to foster improved health, nutrition, fitness, and general wellness for the clubs’ 5,000 members, their families, and staff.

Implemented in 2004, the initiative approaches health from a holistic perspective through a comprehensive program promoting wellness at four key levels: organization-wide; among members; within families; and at schools and in the community.

Organizationally, the clubs adopted a nutrition policy to ensure that healthy foods, in appropriate portions, are available for afternoon snacks, in vending machines, and at special events. They instituted a "no-candy rule," banning the use of candy as prizes or incentives. There is also staff training and development on wellness topics.

At the member level, the initiative employs a "triple-play" strategy of increasing physical activity, improving knowledge of healthy habits and physical fitness, and enhancing positive interactions and healthy relationships.

The family level aims to cultivate wellness by encouraging participation in family-night activities and family health services. Each quarter, a family fun night combines fitness and educational activities with a nutritious dinner.

At the schools and community level, middle schools take part in "Healthy Habits School Outreach," an interactive program of lunchtime activities and retreats focusing on fitness and fun.

The initiative gets a thumbs-up from parents.

"I really appreciate the nutrition program at the Boys & Girls Club," says a mother of two club members. "It offers a variety of healthy foods. It exposes the children to nutrition in a comfortable surrounding and allows them to try new foods and possibly expand their diet. They also learn about portion size, which is very important."

In developing the initiative, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County has partnered with local health and youth-serving organizations, including Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, which cosponsored the Wellness Initiative with a $10,000 grant last fall.

"Our Boys & Girls Clubs embrace a mind, body, and soul model — in essence, the whole child," says Donna Ferraro, president/CEO of the organization. "With increasing information on the rates of obesity and diabetes in children, we believed that, as an organization, we needed to take an active role in the overall wellness of our club members, their families, and our club staff. The funding provided by Community Hospital enables us to employ a comprehensive approach and address nutrition, health, fitness, and wellness needs."

Keeping our community healthy

In 2007, we provided $123.9 million and almost 21,172 volunteer hours — sponsoring everything from health initiatives for children to the American Heart Association’s HeartWalk — to stay connected with our community.

Here’s how we did it:

Improving Access to Care — $119,322,330 to people in need, people who might not otherwise be able to afford healthcare

Building Healthy Communities — $2,314,849 for identifying and addressing our community’s health needs

Health Education and Wellness — $1,753,470 to educate people about how their lifestyle choices affect their health

Special Care for Special Needs — $517,836 for those at risk because of age, involvement in a violent relationship, chemical dependence, mental illness, HIV, or socioeconomics

If you would like a copy of our complete community benefit report, please write to us at Administration, P.O. Box HH, Monterey, CA 93942, or call us at 625-4528.