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(12) Getting the Community Fit Together- unique partnerships between the Florida Department of Health and private entities in Hillsborough County


Authors:

Jennifer Waskovich, MS, RD, LDN, CLC – Senior Human Services Program Manager, Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County

Kelsey Christian, MPH, CHES, CPH – Health Educator Consultant, Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough county

Abstract:

In 2007, the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County began a project to meet the wellness needs of communities that had rates of obesity higher than the state average. Through research and community involvement, the Department realized that people needed a simplistic, easy to understand program and guide to health and wellness. The Department also discovered that people are more likely to make long lasting behavior changes if the information was conveyed in a support group setting. Hence, the Get Into Fitness Today (GIFT) program was born. The GIFT program was developed by Registered Dietitians, Registered Nurses, and health educators with the goal that the program would be delivered by lay community health workers. The program is based off the Transtheoretical or Stages of Changes Model, which allows the program to meet the participants at where they are at in the behavior change process with the goal of moving them to make sustainable behavior changes. The program was also developed using Social Support Theory which allows the participants to interact in a support group setting to receive emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal support through GIFT which strengthens behavior changes that lead to weight loss. The materials were created to cover the basics of nutrition and wellness including: MyPlate, ways to lower sodium, healthy shopping education, fats, portion sizes, physical activity, and chronic disease prevention. The program can be delivered in 6 or 12 weeks with each class being at least 1 hour long. The outcome measures were weight loss (measured pre and post), increase in physical activity, and overall increase of fruit and vegetable intake. Originally in 2007 the program was created for lay community health workers to deliver the program within their communities. Then, as the program became more and more successful the Department hired these lay community health workers to offer the program in addition to health educators. Over the course of 11 years the program has expanded from initially being facilitated by lay community health workers to now being offered by many facets of the community including nurses, health educators, yoga instructors, employers, and church groups. In 2016, the Department offered a grant to organizations in the community who could facilitate the GIFT program for a year. That year, the grant recipient was a small business owner who ran a yoga studio with a strong emphasis on wellness. She delivered the program with her employees and the weight loss, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable intake were on par with what the Department’s health educators were seeing in the classes they offered. In 2017, the grant recipient was BayCare Health Systems, a large hospital system that covers 4 counties and is the 2nd largest employer in the Tampa Bay area. BayCare offered GIFT in small clinic settings, their fitness centers, recreation centers, and their own faith-based community groups within Hillsborough County. They too saw the same weight loss results, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable intake increases. When the grant ended in 2018, BayCare decided to continue the project through a grant and expand into Pinellas County. Currently, the Department has expanded the program even further into train the trainer sessions where a Department health educator will work with an employer so that they can use the GIFT program to create their own wellness program. During the GIFT program’s 11-year history, over 350 groups have been conducted throughout Hillsborough County with approximately 90% of participants indicating increases in physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. Groups, whether conducted by the Department or community partners, indicate an average class weight loss of 2-4%. The Department will continue to expand the GIFT program through public and private partnerships in ways that best benefit the community to reduce the impact of obesity in Hillsborough County.

 

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