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  2005 Dec30 Release.
  For Immediate Release.
  Contact: Bonnie Arkus 609-771-9600
  Download pdf

A Grant from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and Funding support from the state of New Jersey sustain the program

Trenton, NJ, December 30, 2005 A program that measures the effect of intervention on the synergistic relationship between exercise, nutrition, cardiovascular health and self-esteem in adolescent girls will continue, thanks to a $15,000 grant the Women’s Heart Foundation received from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey and an additional $25,000 of support from the state of New Jersey. The program also received a commitment of continued support of in-kind services from the Rutgers University Department of Nursing in Camden for the research component.

The three-year Teen Esteem program and project, which began as a pilot in the 2004-2005 school year, is an all-girl gym-alternative at the Trenton Central High School. Now in its second year, organizers have refined the curriculum and are ready to branch out into other school districts. "We have a more comprehensive and defined exercise routine and nutrition program, responding to requests from both the fitness experts and the teacher, and we’ve developed a new activities manual with health curriculum that contains all the elements of the program for 10th-grade girls so now it can be easily replicated,"said Bonnie Arkus, Women’s Heart Foundation executive director who also serves as the Teen Esteem Project Manager. "These grants have allowed us to hire the staff and purchase the supplies we need to continue this great program," she said. The program employs a project manager, two certified fitness trainers, each who works one day per week, and a registered dietitian every two weeks for "hands-on" nutrition days with preparation of healthy foods recipes in the Teen Esteem test kitchen. Volunteer students from The College of New Jersey Department of Nursing provide mentoring support and assist with the collection of research data. Other parts of the curriculum are being shared by the school nurse for personal teen health and hygiene, and the counselors from the school’s Youth Services Program, covering topics on normal teen development, teen esteem and community resources. The health curriculum is being implemented by head teacher Constance Kelley who oversees the entire program and staff, in partnership with the Women's Heart Foundation and stakeholders of the program.

"The girls really seem to be enjoying the program and the routine", said Kelly. "They get dressed into their gym clothes and they work out. In co-ed gym class, they would refuse to participate, accepting a failing grade rather than exercising in front of the boys, so this is a much better arrangement". Dr. Kathleen C. Ashton, PhD, APRN, BC, Clinical Associate Professor of Nursing at Rutgers University Camden is the study's principal investigator who reports that the research is also going more smoothly this year. "We’ve completed a lipid panel on all 120 participants, along with height, weight, waist circumference, BMI and blood pressure. The testing will be repeated at the end of the school year", said Ashton. "We’re using an instrument from the Centers for Disease Control to measure physical activity, nutrition and self-esteem. Each student has completed a 6-page survey form and students in regular gym class have completed the form as well as part of their health curriculum", said Dr. Ashton. "Preliminary results indicate that the majority of students do not eat breakfast, and have diets severely lacking in fruits and vegetables. Several participants have had severely low blood sugar readings and some have been found to have low HDL levels, which are consistent with poor nutrition habits. HDL cholesterol, often referred to as the ‘Healthy Cholesterol’, is what protects against heart disease by keeping plaque from building up on artery walls. HDL cholesterol can be raised by regular vigorous physical activity and by a diet that is high in monounsaturated fat, contained in olive oil and nut oils.

There is a focus on understanding food labels, making healthy choices and involving the family and community, so Teen Esteem organizers are planning a family health night in January and a field trip to Wegmans in the spring, for a repeat of its highly successful Shopping for a Healthy Heart, implemented with five dietitians from the UMDNJ School of Dietetic Internships. "We believe it’s important to know where you can locate healthier foods on the supermarket shelf and how to read and interpret food labels and Wegmans and the UMDNJ have been tremendous health partners in this effort. Through this collaboration, we have been able to give the students a wonderful learning experience," said Ms. Arkus. "Empowering these young consumers sets the stage for a lifetime of healthier choices".

Teen Esteem is a program of the Women's Heart Foundation that is being implemented with a health study in partnership with the Rutgers University Department of Nursing, and the Youth Services Program and Health and Physical Education Departments at Trenton Central High School.

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey promotes health, well-being, and quality of life in New Jersey’s communities. Priority areas include health, the arts, and education.

The Women's Heart Foundation is a public-supported charity dedicated to prevention of heart disease and to improving women’s survival and quality of life. For more information about the Teen Esteem program, go to www.womensheart.org. You may contact WHF by email at bonnie@womensheart.org and request a free Teen Esteem video CD. Consultation is by appointment only. WHF, P.O. Box 7827, West Trenton, NJ 08628.



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