Two women review nutrition information.

Combating childhood obesity in MontCo

In the picture above, Montgomery County Obesity Action Team Leaders Courtney Grove; Health Promotion Council Program Manager(L)and and Mandel J Smith, Nuitrition Educator with Penn State Cooperative, look over nutritional fliers the team will be distributing. Photo by Mark C. Psoras, The Reporter.

The foundation works to address childhood obesity in the community through its Wellness Initiative for the School Environment: Smart Nutrition and Activity Collaborative (WISE SNAC®). WISE SNAC aims to foster collaboration among schools and community partners, reinforce messages and create opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity and provide professional development and capacity building opportunities for school personnel, families and organizations serving the greater North Penn community.

By Bradley Schlegel

A working group of regional agencies focused on better living, which began in an effort to provide healthy snacks to students in three school districts, is receiving national acclaim.

In its seventh year, the Montgomery County Obesity Action Team has expanded its scope, according to team chair Courtney Grove.

“Our ultimate goal is to shift our focus beyond schools to the entire community,” she said.

The OAT — which includes representatives from the Health Promotion Council, the North Penn Visiting Nurses Association, the North Penn YMCA, Penn State Extension of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Health Department and the Montgomery County Medical Society — was selected to participate in the Collaborate for Healthy Weight project.

Initiated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) and funded by the Affordable Care Act Prevention and Public Health Fund, the project’s goal is to create partnerships between primary care, public health, and community organizations to discover sustainable ways to promote healthy weight and eliminate health disparities in communities across the United States, according to information posted at

During the 2008-09 school year, 34,156 kids — approximately 29 percent of school-aged children in the county — were designated overweight or obese by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, according to Harriet Morton, a spokesperson for the county’s Health Department.

In April, members of the local team — one of 40 selected throughout the nation — participated in the first of three virtual learning sessions planned for 2012, according to Grove.

She said the teams will learn from national experts, exchange ideas and create plans for becoming best practice models for other communities to follow.

“Through the collaboration, we can better evaluate our success,” said Grove, program manager for the Health Promotion Council, based in Hatfield Township.

Initiated in 2009, the Montgomery County Health Alliance’s Obesity Action Team aims to reduce the prevalence of obesity, particularly childhood obesity, throughout the county, according to Morton.

She said that the team — created after a community-wide summit on childhood obesity that was organized by the Greater North Penn Collaborative for Health and Human Services, the Health Promotion Council’s WISE SNAC initiative and the Montgomery County Health Alliance — works to raise awareness of this critical public health issue, engage local organizations to collaborate on obesity prevention efforts, promote a consistent county-wide healthy lifestyle message, and provide resources to help with prevention efforts.

According to Grove, the OAT has implemented a pilot program with four pediatricians. She said the doctors have agreed to engage their patients in a “5-2-1-0” message that promotes the goals of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of screen time a day, one hour of physical activity and zero sugar-based beverages.

“These are four simple things,” Grove said. “Children can pick one and start small. It’s a good starting point for people to think about changing their behavior. It’s all about prevention.”

From Schlegel, Bradley. (2012, May 8). A team battle. The Reporter. Retrieved from: