I move, you move: Early Head Start staff and families get moving

Philadelphia – The Health Federation of Philadelphia (HFP) was recently awarded a $30,000 grant from the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation. The grant will support the Let’s Move Too! project, which addresses childhood cardiovascular risk factors such as childhood obesity and stress in underserved communities.

The Let’s Move Too! project was designed to use within HFP’s Early Head Start program for its community-based home visitation staff and the children and their parents in the program. It incorporates intentional movement, stress reduction and mindfulness activities into the daily routines of staff and program participants. Let’s Move Too! focuses on increasing daily physical activity, participating in structured movement experiences, making healthy nutritional choices, utilizing sensory-based attention and calming techniques and understanding the effect of stress on mind and body.

“This project is unique because it incorporates many elements of health and wellness together in a very fun and energetic way,” said Khadijah Muhammad, director of HFP’s Early Head Start. “Our goal with Let’s Move Too! is to help develop healthy habits in our staff and our parents and children. This will have a real, lasting impact.”

HFP Early Head Start recognized a need for this type of program after surveying program participants and staff. Staff participated in the Pennsylvania Head Start Staff Wellness Survey, which indicated that Head Start staff across Pennsylvania have high rates of health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The survey also reported on depressive symptoms and overall physical and mental health amongst Head Start staff. Parents completed an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) questionnaire, which showed that many parents have a high exposure to ACEs.

“Research on ACEs shows a clear connection between childhood exposure and poor health, behavioral and functional outcomes in adulthood,” said Leslie Lieberman, the senior director of special initiatives and consulting for HFP. “We want to make sure that our staff and the parents, caregivers and children in our program have as many supports and tools as possible to be healthy in mind and body.”

In January of 2017, HFP’s Early Head Start program opened a Health and Wellness Center at its community site at 100 W. Oxford Street. The center is open for use by staff members and program families. It provides a quiet location for mindfulness activities such as yoga and a space for personal training sessions and nutrition counseling. “Overall, the Health and Wellness Center is a place for the staff to center themselves and focus on both mental and physical wellbeing,” said Casey Schattler, a National Health Corps member working within Early Head Start.

Program families are also invited to attend bi-monthly workshops and health screenings on topics such as HIV education and testing, eating healthy on a budget and healthy communication. The first workshop for families was held on February 13. Let’s Move Too! activities will be held in the Health and Wellness Center as well as during weekly and monthly home visitations and group socializations.

“We are happy to fund an innovative program from HFP,” said Martha E. Morse, executive director of The Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation. “We launched a new initiative focusing on reducing childhood risk for cardiovascular disease. We are excited about this focus, and the HFP project fit very well.”

For more information about the Edna G. Kynett Memorial Foundation click here.

To find out if you qualify for Early Head Start click here.

About Early Head Start: HFP’s Early Head Start program is a home-based program that provides comprehensive services such as early childhood education, health, nutrition and social services support to families who have young children ages birth to three years old and pregnant women. Early Head Start also meets the needs of children with disabilities and connects families to community resources.