Encouraging healthy living through workshops, virtual world
Wednesday, March 7 2012
More than half of Americans today suffer one or more chronic diseases that contribute to skyrocketing medical expenses for both families and governments. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that modifying just four behaviors could end most chronic diseases—eat healthier foods, do more physical activity, quit smoking, and trim alcohol use.
University of Idaho Extension specialists and educators do their part, working hard to use state and federal funds plus grant money to help Idaho adults and children who battle a range of chronic health issues. Of special concern are people on food stamps—the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—for people who often can’t afford healthcare.
Extension educators help stretch food-stamp dollars. They train paraprofessionals to teach and advise residents from elementary school age to senior citizens on ways to improve their nutrition and health. Program focus includes stretching food dollars while making healthier choices and adding more physical activity. UI Extension family and consumer sciences educators and specialists in most Idaho counties run these programs with the help of federal funds: Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Programs (EFNEP), Extension Nutrition Programs (ENP), and Senior ENP (SENP).
Help for seniors, biggest losers, etc. are among northern Idaho programs. More than 900 participants have taken Healthy Eating with Diabetes with 78 percent reporting they are more physically active and 93 percent reporting they are following a healthier, diabetic-friendly diet. In Idaho County since 2009, 600 men and women have participated in UI Extension’s annual Biggest Loser Weight Loss Challenge. Combined, participants lost 2,357 pounds, (average 2.8% body fat per person). Ada County classes have stressed eating healthier grains and how to make bread from whole grains.
Health education goes virtual through a new virtual reality program aims to help Idaho residents get clear on which practices are healthy and which are not via computer game-like simulations accessible at www.webpages.uidaho.edu/sl
. Intrepid Healthy Lifestyle Hunter, now being beta tested with Idaho high school students, lets learners make virtual lifestyle choices.
Funded by the Idaho State Board of Education, the simulation also has a money/finance module. Creating it are faculty from UI Extension, the School of Family and Consumer Sciences, the College of Art and Architecture’s Virtual Technology and Design, and the College of Business and Economics.
More information is available from Martha Raidl at Boise at firstname.lastname@example.org
. More details also are available at www.extension.uidaho.edu/impacts