When not active in the SIGs and her local community, Sandy enjoys spending time with her family, reading, fishing and going to the mountains. She also trains the next generation of nurses by teaching at Duke University and the University of Mt. Olive, and she serves as a subject matter expert for the Western Governors University.
My DNP capstone was childhood obesity. I’ve seen an alarming increase in child obesity and the associated comorbidities in my practice during the past 16 years causing real concern. I’m involved in several childhood obesity prevention initiatives in my local community. In 2011, I founded a child obesity task force which includes government and school officials. Many organizations and professionals have joined our group including Lenoir Memorial Hospital, Lenoir County Health Department, the Agricultural Extension Agency, East Carolina University, teachers, students, school nurses and many more. We help with county schools through Project Dig, which emphasizes exercise and activity, and by grant writing for things such as providing water bottles, physical education instructors and playground equipment. Project Dig also works in close collaboration with school nurses. The hospital has been very instrumental in our success.
Obesity involves motivation and lifestyle choice, as well as the environmental factor. Some communities are simply not educated or set up to help meet our children’s fitness goals or decrease their fat and sugar consumption. I would say it is essential to improve education and get community “buy in” to help children and families help themselves.
In working with schools, the main challenge PNPs like myself face is the lunch program. Currently, the National School Lunch Program, a federally assisted meal program, operating in our county serves frozen or processed foods instead of fresh foods. Sadly, parents are unaware of what their children eat in schools - frozen pizza, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc. After school on the way to dance or ball practice and other extracurricular activities, parents often pick up fast food because it’s convenient. Little do parents know that they’ve just doubled the amount of junk foods their children eat in a day!
One of our community partners is the Farms to School program. Together, we are trying to get local farmers Good Agricultural Practices “GAP”certified so they can sell their crops directly to schools, which would offer children more nutritious alternatives to processed food lunches. I recently met with Steve Troxler, NC Agricultural Commissioner, who states there are funds available in our state to help farmers with GAP certification costs. As a SIG, we can get the word out to schools and farmers across the country about this program.
It’s difficult to get parents to commit to healthy eating and physical activity for their children. Therefore, I use Motivational Interview Techniques, which help children and their family embrace healthy life choices. I continually ask myself, What kind of nutrition plan can we make that parents and children can stick to?
Communication and advocacy are my specialties. I’m community-oriented and help schools and students in-person. I write op-ed pieces and stay active on social media educating on obesity and healthy life choice issues. In addition to being active in the SIG, I’m highly active in my local government. I advocate for government officials to recognize and address childhood obesity. Several mayors in my state are already providing public support to obesity, fitness and nutrition initiatives and have proclaimed September as Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. I use NAPNAP literature in my daily practice, from obesity guidelines to Ready Set Grow magazine, and I’ve found the camaraderie through NAPNAP valuable as well.
Learn more about Childhood Obesity SIG