Patricia Delaney
Media Relations
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$1-million New Balance Foundation grant to BC's Lynch School of Education to launch health education curriculum in local schools

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12-9-03) -- The Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch School of Education at Boston College has received a $1-million grant from the New Balance Foundation to support a groundbreaking school-community-university partnership among Boston College, Boston Public Schools, the YMCA of Greater Boston and other community partners. This new funding will support the CONNECTfive initiative that coordinates resources to serve more than 3,300 students and their families. In particular, it will launch a new health education curriculum that will target the growing threats of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.

The New Balance Health Education Curriculum will focus on education and prevention, with special emphasis on nutrition, physical activity and fitness -- areas recognized as critical to reversing the current trend toward obesity and diabetes among children. The program will be implemented in the ten schools of Allston-Brighton and Mission Hill that participate in the successful CONNECTfive initiative.

The New Balance Foundation grant, payable over three years, will fund key positions within CONNECTfive, including hiring certified health educators, as well as establish the new curriculum throughout the participating schools.

"We see this as an opportunity to support health and physical education in Boston with a particular interest in positively affecting the issue of childhood obesity," said Anne Davis, executive vice president, New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. and founding trustee of the New Balance Foundation. "The CONNECTfive process is well established and involves all key groups in the child's life including the parents. This is a critical element for the success of the program."

"The partnership with New Balance creates exciting momentum for CONNECTfive in many ways," said Rev. Joseph O'Keefe, SJ, interim dean of BC's Lynch School of Education. "From the beginning, New Balance understood the necessity of a strong infrastructure as the key to delivering coordinated, comprehensive support services to schoolchildren and their families.

"In particular," he said, "the funding for health education curriculum within CONNECTfive creates a critical new dimension in the healthy development of children and families. We are delighted that the New Balance Foundation shares our concern that schools not only provide the basics of education, but that they also must address the non-academic needs of children and families."

"We now know that academic success in urban schools requires integrated and comprehensive student and family support to address needs that arise outside the classroom," said Mary Walsh, Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at BC's Lynch School, who directs the University's Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships. "A partnership between New Balance and CONNECTfive to implement a comprehensive health education curriculum can reverse the course along which vulnerable children could potentially head -- toward obesity, diabetes and substance abuse. With this funding, every child in Allston-Brighton/Mission Hill elementary schools will receive critical teaching and learning about how to become and stay healthy -- physically, emotionally and socially."

With funding from the New Balance Foundation, CONNECTfive will adopt a nationally recognized, evidence-based health education curriculum, which will be taught by trained, certified health educators.

The main focus for the first year of implementation will be nutrition, physical activity and fitness, and personal safety -- areas that directly address obesity in children and juvenile diabetes and are cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being critical to reducing premature illness and death among children and adolescents.

Background: The increase in obesity among American youth over the past two decades is dramatic. Data supplied by the CDC indicates that, in 1999-2000, approximately 15 percent of children aged 6-11 were overweight, as compared to approximately 7 percent in 1976-1980. Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious health issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. Implementing prevention programs and getting a better understanding of treatment for youngsters is critical to controlling the obesity epidemic. Modifiable causes of obesity include: physical inactivity/sedentary behavior, socio-economic status, eating habits and environment.

Of equal concern is the increase in the incidence of diabetes in children, specifically Type 2 diabetes. Each year, more than 13,000 American children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. As more and more children and adolescents in the United States become overweight and inactive, health providers are finding more children and adolescents with Type 2 diabetes, a disease usually seen in people over age 40.

For children and teens at risk, health care providers can encourage, support and educate the entire family to make lifestyle changes that may delay or prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Critical lifestyle changes include healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight and staying active, all of which will be addressed in the new CONNECTfive health education curriculum.

CONNECTfive aims to build a system of care for children that connects schools, community agencies, universities and businesses in the delivery of core support services and resources that lead to healthy development — an essential ingredient of academic achievement. Through CONNECTfive, students are receiving services in the areas of tutoring, mentoring, mental health, social skills, after school care and family services. Launched in June of 2001, CONNECTfive enters its third year with a strong record of success. With the endorsement of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Superintendent of Schools Thomas Payzant, CONNECTfive has created an effective service delivery infrastructure within the school system, and has established successful partnerships with over 30 community agencies to deliver coordinated student and family support services.

The New Balance Foundation is a charitable foundation established and funded by New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. The Foundation supports programs that emphasize local outreach efforts, the involvement of the community, and children's initiatives that benefit the communities in which their employees live and work. For more information about the New Balance Foundation, log-on to the company's web site at Click on "About Us" and then click on "Community Involvement."