APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
At the heart of the HealthCorps program are the HealthCorps Coordinators - recent college graduates who defer entry into medical school or graduate health programs to participate in public service through a two-year, often six-days-a-week assignment at a designated high school in a high-need community. The Coordinator's participation with students in the classroom, at extracurricular activities and as a catalyst for community involvement, attracts students and creates a space for them to hear and internalize the fitness, nutrition and mental resilience messages. The sum of the Coordinator's activities and abilities make them a catalyst for change - they lead by example.
The two chief goals of HealthCorps are to enhance educational attainment for high school students, especially high-need students, and to help build healthy futures for the residents of low-income urban and rural communities. In the classroom, Coordinator interaction with students focuses on developing tools to create educated consumers in the areas of nutrition, fitness and mental resilience. Outside the traditional classroom setting, HealthCorps Coordinators guide service-learning projects to expand the reach of lessons and direct field trips to organic farms and hospitals to promote real world relevance. The program also includes school-wide and community-wide health fairs to increase awareness of locally available resources and creative cooking competitions that develop leadership, teamwork and culinary skills. HealthCorps believes high school students provide a largely untapped opportunity for impacting behavioral change and can positively influence lifestyles by offering positive social, economic and health benefits and outcomes for a new generation of consumers and their families.
HealthCorps believes that scaling to 100 schools can be an orderly and evolutionary, not revolutionary, process for the organization. The organization benefits greatly from the experience it has gained and the processes, practices and infrastructure it has built over the past 6 years. The building blocks of the HealthCorps program including recruiting and training Coordinators, identifying host schools and updating the curriculum are largely centrally-managed and free standing processes which support our current footprint and can support the 100 school footprint envisioned in this commitment.
Each school program impacts an average of 600 students per school year. The primary goal of this commitment is to improve health-related outcomes among 60,000 students and 250,000 community members. Additionally, with a footprint of 100 schools, HealthCorps will serve a population large and diverse enough to enable governmental and private organizations to embrace its model as the cornerstone of a national public, private, nonprofit effort to combat youth obesity.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
Phase 1: Identify funding and implementation partners, and schools
July- November, 2011: Secure funding from implementation partners. With partners, establish locations of potential host schools. Existing HealthCorps staff, with incremental software and administrative support, will meet, negotiate and secure host schools. We believe that these needs are not unique and a combination of preexisting and customizable software can be employed to address the potential growing pains associated with scaling to a 100 school level.
Phase 2: Recruit, interview and select coordinators
October 2011 to January 2012: Information about the Coordinator position is currently available at approximately 200 colleges and universities. We do not believe that we will need to expand this outreach to find the additional Coordinators.
February 2012 to May 2012: After initial screening, HealthCorps will host interviews for Coordinator positions in 4 cities. Depending on the geography associated 100 school commitment, visits to additional cities may be added. By May 2012, all employment offers to Coordinator candidates will be offered.
Phase 3: Coordinator Training and Placement
June 2012 to July 2012: Training and preparation of Coordinators will take place over six weeks through a combination of classroom training and fieldwork. Training and preparation work will take place around a central facility with adjacent residential living arrangements. These services are currently provided for 40+ Coordinators and can scale them to support the 100 Coordinators associated with this Commitment.
Phase 4: Program Launch
August 2012 to April 2013: We will meet with mentor teachers, administrators, and School Wellness Committees to create schedules and semester plans. Schedules will allow for HealthCorps in-service training. We will complete participant enrollment forms, associated pre-test and behavior change instruments. At the start of the Academic year, the program will launch.
May 2013 to June 2013: We will collect post-tests and behavior change data for program completers and conclude the community activism. June: We will organize, host and promote community fairs enabling Coordinators, students and HealthCorps strategic partners to conclude and celebrate the year.
Coordinators will serve a minimum of 1,700 hours per year and work directly with approximately 600 students on campus and 2,500 members of the community through activism, events and outreach. As a consequence of this 100-school commitment, HealthCorps will deliver: a) Four weeks of intensive, classroom and field based job preparation and training to 100 Coordinators for whom travel and lodging will be included; b) Coordinator salary and health insurance; c) funds for on-campus supplies, materials and community health fair event production; d) hundreds of volunteer hours from HealthCorps Advisors, supporters of the training process and community volunteers.
Over the course of the academic school year, HealthCorps will deliver: a) a minimum of 1,700 hours of direct engagement per school with 'at risk' high school students and the surrounding community; b) provide tests and testing information including blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI and other biometric tests as a component of our research programs and health fairs; and c) engagement of 2,500 community members per school in our community events.
Obesity in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than 35 percent of Americans are classified as obese and an additional 30 percent are overweight. This trend has been steadily rising since the late 1970s, and alarmingly, the steepest increase is among children and adolescents. In the US, childhood obesity grew from a rate of 7 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2006. In 'F as in Fat', the Trust for America's Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted that in 2009, 28 states saw a significant increase in obesity and 15 of these states experienced an increase for the second year in a row. Without an intervention, the majority of the country could be obese by 2012.
As reported in the Journal of School Health, among students, obesity is closely associated with impaired functioning in school and lower school attendance, often for health-related reasons. High school students in at-risk communities are especially vulnerable to these critical deficiencies. The International Journal of Epidemiology published research demonstrating a high correlation between low family income and the prevalence of obesity and other weight-related conditions. As a result, HealthCorps targets its resources and efforts to promote learning and behavior change opportunities in high schools in which a majority of students are eligible for the federal lunch program.
To address the obesity level amongst high school students, HealthCorps designed and launched a 10-month pilot program in 2003. The program followed guidelines of Healthy People 2010, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initiative to advance a nationwide health promotion agenda. HealthCorps launched its pilot program at New York City's George Washington Educational Campus in 2004 with lunchtime workshops. HealthCorps embarked on a regional roll-out in 2007, extending its health education and mentoring program to 36 schools. Today, HealthCorps operates in 41 high schools in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Academic research has demonstrated the positive impacts of the broader HealthCorps program on individual students. An independent, third-party, two-year efficacy study found that HealthCorps had significant benefits on three dimensions: 1) Participants decreased soda consumption by 0.61 times per week; 2) Participants were 36 percent more likely to report they became more physically active; and 3) Participants scored 10.7 percent higher on the test of health knowledge.
At 100-school scale, HealthCorps will impact a greater number of students and reach more people in at risk communities by offering positive social, economic and health benefits and outcomes. Moreover, additional locations will provide greater geographic flexibility to potential Coordinators and a larger, more established program will build enthusiasm and support among parents and other influencers for the Coordinator's after college graduation plans.
HealthCorps is seeking funding to continue to expand into new schools and implement programming at a greater scale. Additionally, HealthCorps is seeking best practices support around curriculum content. HealthCorps is also looking to collaborate with new research partners to continue to evaluate program efficacy and impact, especially as HealthCorps University and its trainer development platform is expanded.
HealthCorps has the following types of infrastructure support that it can provide to best practice curriculum partners: In-school Coordinators, Program Trainers, and Research systems and Financial Systems that can track data and information.