The MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education has recently
partnered with the Springfield School District in an effort to improve
employee health.
The Delaware County Director of Human Resources, Linda Bellace has
identified a need to instill healthier habits in local employees and
has therefore turned to Villanova’s College of Nursing.
     The MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention or COPE is a program
created by officials in the University’s College of Nursing.
The program’s purpose is to educate individuals on obesity prevention,
and many students involved in the program also conduct research
projects to supplement their work.
COPE encourages collaboration with sponsors throughout a community
that shares the same goals of preventing obesity and educating young
The program attracts many partners with the promise that a company
will gain visibility amongst leading nurses, dietitians and fitness
experts and will also have the opportunity to showcase their own
products and services through COPE’s PR efforts.
    This year, COPE welcomed a new director,  Erin Winterhalter.
Winterhalter is a certified diabetes educator and registered dietician
for the Diabetes Center for Children at The Children’s Hospital of
Philadelphia where she held numerous leadership positions.
 When asked why she was attracted to the COPE program, Winterhalter
remarked, “After completing my Master’s degree in public health, I
knew I needed to make a move from the outpatient, clinical setting I
was previously in.  I wanted to continue to work in nutrition but on a
larger population scale rather than on the individual level.”
 Her role is to manage COPE’s ongoing programs such as an online
webinar series to provide continuing education credit to healthcare
professionals and carry out research and programming of grant-awarded
projects. Winterhalter expressed particular interest in a grant the
University is currently involved in with the “Healthy Futures
Initiative,” which is received through the Independence Blue Cross
Foundation. Winterhalter is also responsible for developing new
partnerships within local communities for the organization.
COPE’s role here at the University and in the greater community is a
significant one.  The importance of Obesity Prevention and Education
was reinforced this month when Solveig A. Cunningham, Michael R.
Kramer and K.M. Venkat Narayan, published an article in the
prestigious The New England Journal of Medicine titled “Incidence of
Childhood Obesity in the United States.”
The study, conducted from 1998 through 2007, monitored the weight and
height of 7738 children who were in kindergarten in 1998. Among that
group, 14.9 percent were identified as overweight at the start of the
study and 12.4 percent were obese based upon body-mass index
standards.  By eighth grade, 20.8 percent were overweight and 17
percent were obese .
A major finding of the study was that overweight five-year-olds were
four times as likely as normal-weight children to become obese by
eighth grade.
Most of the increase in percentage of obese children came in the early
years from kindergarten to fifth grade. It is therefore imperative to
try to help children make constructive changes in their eating habits
as early as possible.
The work of Villanova’s College of Nursing and the Springfield School
District to educate both faculties and students about the consequences
of what we choose to eat has the potential to make a significant
contribution to the quality of life as a result of the COPE
Officials like Bellace are attracted to COPE’s unique program and
services because she wants to educate local staff about the importance
of health and wellness.
She therefore hopes that an alliance with COPE will help to improve
employee health and, subsequently, improve productivity, decrease
absenteeism and lower health care costs for employers in Delaware
Bellace therefore hired registered dietitians to help her design a
program which would increase wellness in the workplace.
 “The Springfield School District came to me asking for help,”
Winterhalter said of the new partnership. “Like many workplaces, the
District has a small wellness committee, with a few staff and teachers
who stay after school and organize walking groups, guest speakers, et
cetera. “
“The Director of Human Resources called me and said that they needed
help getting off the ground,” Winterhalter went on to explain.
” Her wellness committee is compromised of passionate teachers and
staff, but no one with a real health background or the time to fully
manage a nutrition education program on campus. The District also
noticed more weight-related health claims being processed by their
employees which gets expensive [quickly].  So she wanted to implement
some programming around weight management and weight-related chronic
COPE will help the Springfield School District accomplish its goal of
a healthier worksite by providing nutrition seminars on professional
development days, and “lunch n’ learns” during lunch hours. COPE will
also participate in the district’s health fair this coming spring.


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