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  2006 Jan 10 Release.
  For Immediate Release.
  Contact: Bonnie Arkus 609-771-9600

Researchers and Stakeholders add more days to the nutrition curriculum

Trenton, NJ, January 10, 2006 Researchers from the Rutgers University Department of Nursing conducting research on a cohort of 124 sophomore girls attending Trenton Central High School (TCHS) disclosed today the results of the first data analysis. While surveys show that self-esteem is not an issue for most students, taking in an adequate number of servings of fruits and vegetables is. Skipped meals, erratic eating behaviors, inability to complete a 25-minute fitness routine with a personal fitness trainer and abnormal blood work findings prompted organizers to add more hands-on nutrition days to the program.


The Teen Esteem program represents a partnership among several entities, all with the same objective: to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome in adolescent girls before they suffer the consequences of poor health choices. The program stems from a request from Ms. Ruthann Bailey of TCHS to Ms. Bonnie Arkus, Executive Director of the Women's Heart Foundation (WHF) to provide a program that meets the objectives of the Board of Education and school officials in improving the health of TCHS students.

The Women's Heart Foundation responded by developing the curriculum and procedures for the program, securing funding from various sources including the State of New Jersey, various nursing organizations and local businesses, and mobilizing research support from the Department of Nursing of Rutgers University for a 3-year health study.

In the summer and into the fall of 2004, a room at the high school main campus was renovated to provide space for the fitness program and kitchen facilities to support nutrition instruction and demonstration. Personnel were hired and the program was implemented in the fall of 2004 with seed money provided by the Office on Women's Health, NJ Department of Health & Senior Services, and by the Department of Human Services, advocated by Senator Shirley K. Turner. The Teen Esteem program doors opened late October 2004 with an official press conference being held November 17.

During the 2004-2005 academic year, the program was piloted and evaluated with an enrollment of 124 sophomore girls who participated in a fitness routine three times per week, health on one day a week and nutrition on the remaining day each week. Participants were self-selected and all permissions were obtained. The program was provided as an alternative to the regular health and physical education curriculum. Participants were evaluated at the start of the program and again at the end of the academic year on such measures as height, weight, blood pressure, waist circumference, blood glucose level and blood lipid level. They also completed surveys designed to measure self-esteem, physical activity and nutrition. Girls participating in the program were measured against a control group of 44 sophomore girls who did not participate in the Teen Esteem program.


At the start of the program, the group ranged in weight from 98 to 331 pounds with a mean weight of 152.49 pounds. Waist circumference ranged from 26.25 inches to 51 inches with a mean of 34.24 inches. Blood pressure ranged from 84/50 to 152/110 with a mean of 110/69mm Hg. Glucose ranged from 27 to 443 with a mean of 87.46. Total cholesterol ranged from 150 to 450 with a mean of 163. A comparison of the findings from the beginning to the end of the academic year follows:

     graph of Teen Esteem research results - Year 1 Observation

The surveys showed a high level of self-esteem among both the participant group and the control group, with a slight increase in average self-esteem scores at the conclusion of the program. The nutrition subscale revealed only 16% of students eating 2 or more servings of fruit and less than 10% of students eating the recommended 4 to 5 servings of vegetables each day. By the conclusion of the program, a greater percentage of students in the participant group reported eating more than 2 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Similar results were seen on the physical activity subscale with an increased percentage of students doing stretching and muscle strengthening exercises during the preceding week of testing as compared to the start of the program.


The results reveal an overall improvement in the physiological markers for metabolic syndrome, with the exceptions of weight and BMI. The BMI reflects the expected increase in height over the year and the weight increase reflects the fact that muscles weigh more than fat. The results of the physical activity and nutrition subscales reveal an improvement in health choices and the results of the self-esteem measure reflect an improvement in the girls' levels of self-esteem.

It became evident that a procedure for follow-up of abnormal clinical findings was necessary and protocols were established through working with the school's nursing supervisor. The poor nutrition practices of students also prompted organizers to add more nutrition education days with hands-on instruction in the Teen Esteem test kitchen from a registered dietitian every 2-3 weeks. Starting a "Breakfast Club" in the Teen Esteem room is also being explored, since few of the students take advantage of the free breakfast program provided all students in the school's cafeteria. Providing students with more regular nutritious snacks, as part of the program, is another goal.

The program is continuing in the 2005-2006 academic year with a $15,000 restricted grant from the Horizon Foundation of New Jersey received by the Women's Heart Foundation, a $5,000 Trenton City Block Grant received by the School-based youth services program, and supplemental funding of $25,000 through the State of New Jersey. Currently 120 girls are enrolled in the program, which includes 90 sophomore girls and 30 junior girls chosen from last year's cohort who are continuing in the program and serving as Peer Leaders to mentor the sophomore participants. WHF has plans to hold a "Parent Night with Open House" in January.

Funding is needed to continue the program beyond the 2005-2006 academic year. Grant applications are currently being submitted to various public and private agencies and program evaluation is continuing. The program employs a project manager, two certified fitness trainers, each who works one day per week, and a registered dietitian for "hands-on" nutrition days with preparation of healthy foods recipes in the Teen Esteem test kitchen. The curriculum includes job interview skills-role play and an opportunity for motivated students to take a course to become certified personal fitness trainers. End-of-year rewards include a peer leadership role for select students to continue the program in their junior year, and special acknowledgements to "A" students, such as computers with student desks or a savings bond with gift certifcate to a popular clothing store. Potential corporate sponsors are invited to contact WHF and request a free Teen Esteem video with sponsorship package. Sponsors may contact: bonnie@womensheart.org.

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 contact us.



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