GREENVILLE — Spectrum Health United Lifestyles received a grant to operate its Rural FitKids Program, which will begin in August.
On May 3, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it will distribute more than $10.4 million in grants to rural health providers in the nation.
Spectrum Health United Hospital’s United Lifestyles was selected to receive about $450,000 to fund its Rural FitKids Program throughout Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola counties.
“We are really excited about it,” said United Lifestyles Executive Director Jodie Faber said of both the grant and program.
Faber said the $450,000 will be given over the course of three years.
She said the Rural FitKids Program was developed to address childhood obesity.
The program combines basic education about nutrition, behavior and exercise with a wide range of physical activities with a goal to provide an effective solution for overweight children who have been unable to make positive changes on their own.
“Our goal is to improve the health of the community,” Faber said.
Jennifer DenOuden, director of marketing and communications at United Hospital, said Faber brainstormed the idea, which United Hospital fully supports.
“It meets the mission statement of Spectrum Health by improving health,” Faber said.
Faber said Rural FitKids Program is based on the Grand Rapids-based FitKids 360, which is a First Steps Childhood Obesity Program.
“(Rural FitKids Program) gives the opportunity of bringing healthcare to the people,” DenOuden said.
Rural FitKids Program is a 12-week course and a four-week follow-up course that features in-home visits by a community health worker to support teachings in the home and with the student’s family.
Faber said there will be two sessions, one for the younger students and one for the older students.
The program, which is overseen by United Lifestyles, will launch in three rural school communities including Greenville Public Schools, Hesperia Community Schools and Reed City Area Schools.
Staffing is provided by Spectrum Health Reed City and Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Hospital for their areas.
Faber said it is always great to partner with schools.
“We couldn’t have done it without the schools,” Faber said.
Coordinators, registered dietitians, exercise instructors and community health workers will work onsite at each school district to implement the program.
Rural FitKids Progam will be offered to students ages 6 to 18 along with their parents or support partners, Faber said. Students must have a body mass index in the 85 percentile or higher with a written referral from a healthcare provider.
Across the three school districts, Faber’s goal is to enroll 350 students over the three years.