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Go West, We Can!

Community partners in Adams County, Idaho offer a picture-perfect illustration of how local groups can collaborate and adapt a national program to help parents and children learn to make healthy choices. The Adams County Health Center (a Federally-Qualified Health Center) is working with several other area partners to engage families in the National Institutes of Health’s We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition)® program. We Can! is a national education program designed to provide families and communities with science-based strategies that they can use to help children eat right, move more and reduce screen time.

Led by Linda Rogers Bailey, a Health Center staff member and the local We Can! point person for the past three years, the groups are using the We Can! Energize our Families Parent Program to teach parents and caregivers the importance of good nutrition and physical activity. “This program has been so inspiring, that we now work with the school to implement lesson plans that focus on positive food choices and physical activity in the classroom as well as summer time with parents, grandparents and caregivers,” says Bailey. “Together, these programs have heightened the awareness of healthy choices in our community.”

Bailey’s team is combining We Can!’s concepts with additional training on parenting strategies, methods for building parents’ self-confidence and self-esteem, and approaches to improving parent/child relationships. Their work illustrates how every community implementing the program has the ability to tailor the lessons – including adding extra skill-building concepts – to reach parents and caregivers who may benefit from a healthy lifestyle makeover. The Team’s parenting classes will also provide participants with a ready-made social network in the community; these networks provide support beyond the classroom for parents trying to make healthy changes for a lifetime.

Importantly, kids are included in the programming, too! A We Can! lesson for them can mean an introduction to nutrition and physical activity concepts through fun challenges such as blindfolded fruit/veggie taste tests. This summer, kids also received a free hot lunch through the Summer Food Service Program; the Center’s community garden donated fresh produce for the lunches.

The Adams County effort is a great example of how community groups can adapt the We Can! program to fit the needs of local parents, caregivers and children. This year, Let’s Move! Faith & Communities is teaming up with We Can! to extend the program’s reach to additional faith-based and neighborhood leaders nationwide, like Bailey and the groups in Adams County, Idaho. For more information about the Let’s Move! Faith & Communities and We Can! partnership, and to register for a We Can! webinar training, visit the HHS Partnership Center’s website.