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Monday, March 22, 2010 - S.T.E.P.S. for Kids Program Receives National Award - Childhood obesity program takes a family-centered approach

Holding the NICHQ Award  is (on the left) Debbie Erlandson, SJH/Garden AHEC Childhood Obesity Coordinator, who accepted the award in Atlanta on behalf of South Jersey Healthcare, and (on the right) Shelley Cohen, S.T.E.P.S. for Kids Grant Manager and SJH Garden AHEC Director. 

VINELAND, NJ (March 19, 2010) South Jersey Healthcare’s S.T.E.P.S. for Kids, a family-focused childhood obesity health intervention program, is the 2010 recipient of The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality’s (NICHQ) Outstanding Contribution to a Childhood Obesity Program. The award was presented during the NICHQ Forum for Improving Children’s Healthcare and Childhood Obesity Congress held March 8-11, 2010, in Atlanta, Georgia. One thousand health care leaders attended the event to discuss the latest methods for improving children’s health care.
Success through Exercise, Physical Fitness and Sharing Information (S.T.E.P.S.) for Kids is a community collaboration of South Jersey Healthcare, Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA, and the Vineland Public Schools. The program is currently partially funded through a Robert Wood Johnson NJ Health Initiatives grant.
The program, now in its third year, has hosted 15 twelve-week courses in Vineland. Registration is now open for the spring S.T.E.P.S. for Kids course scheduled to begin March 25, 2010 at the Vineland YMCA.  The course is free, but pre-registration is required by calling the YMCA @ 856-691-0030, ext. 119.

S.T.E.P.S. for Kids targets children aged 8 to 12 with a body mass index (B.M.I.) over the 85th percentile, putting them at risk for obesity and related preventable diseases. Parent attendance is mandatory since they are role models for their children and they buy and prepare the family’s meals. Students are referred by their pediatrician, physician or a Vineland Public School nurse.  A doctor’s note is required to participate.  Classes are interactive, educational, and participants receive many health-related prizes, gift certificates and incentives.

Both children and their parent(s) meet in weekly classes lead by a SJH registered dietitian, an exercise specialist, and a parent facilitator.  Parents learn how to buy and cook healthier, and how to make exercise and physical activities part of their family’s lifestyles. The parent facilitator teaches them behavior strategies to deal with problems they might face at home in implementing what they learn in the course.  Pre and post testing is included in the program.

South Jersey Healthcare has also received a 2009 American Heart Association Community Innovation Award for S.T.E.P.S. for Kids, and Community Impact Recognition in the 2010 American Hospital Association Community Connections report.  Presentations about the program have been given at statewide and national conferences.  A Bridgeton S.T.E.P.S. for Kids program is scheduled for 2010.  For more information about S.T.E.P.S. for Kids, please visit

SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents.  Please visit to learn more.

The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ)’s mission is to improve children’s health by improving the systems responsible for the delivery of children’s healthcare.  NICHQ has received a $3.25 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic trend across the nation by training, supporting and providing technical assistance to healthcare professionals in becoming advocates for change within their communities.