|Jimmy Collie gets his blood pressure checked by AgriSafe's Karen Sirucek at a 2009 meeting in Kenansville. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
Grants to fund projects for eastern N.C.
By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services
From schoolchildren to farm workers, people in eastern North Carolina will benefit from two health programs led by East Carolina University experts and funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
Granting a total of more than $519,000, the Winston-Salem-based charitable organization has funded an expansion of MATCH, a program that teaches healthful lifestyles to middle-school students, and AgriSafe-NC, a project to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases among agricultural workers and their families.
MATCH (Motivating Adolescents with Technology to Choose Health) received $408,693 to expand its program from six to 12 counties. It is an approach to student wellness that combines physical activity, nutrition education, and technology. The program was developed in Martin County by then-seventh-grade teacher Tim Hardison, who now directs the program at ECU.
For 16 weeks, students learn goal-setting, self-monitoring, decision-making and other skills to help them achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle, including reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. The MATCH curriculum parallels the seventh-grade N.C. Standard Course of Study, and lessons are designed to improve performance on end-of-grade tests in reading, writing, math and computer skills.
Led by Hardison and Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, an ECU assistant professor of pediatrics, MATCH has been working in schools in Martin, Onslow, Pamlico, Washington and Jones counties along with one school in Pitt County. The new grant will allow ECU to expand MATCH into Hyde, Beaufort, Chowan, Edgecombe and Tyrrell counties and an additional school in Pitt County.
"As MATCH has expanded from one to seven schools, consistently anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of kids who were overweight at the start of the program are less overweight after they finish, and also over 75 percent of all kids in MATCH improve their cardiovascular fitness as measured by a standardized fitness test in P.E.," Lazorick said.
The new schools in the MATCH program have obesity rates among the highest in the state and have more than half of students receiving subsidized school meals, according to Hardison and Lazorick.
In the second project, the N.C. Agromedicine Institute has received $110,387 to expand the AgriSafe-NC program into Camden, Gates, and Hertford counties.
The Agromedicine Institute, established in 1999, is a partnership of ECU, N.C. State University, and N.C. A&T State University. Through AgriSafe-NC, the institute partners with local health agencies to provide health screenings and follow-up services for farmers, their families and non-migrant farm workers.
The program began in 2009 with a $100,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to fund a one-year pilot program targeting Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, Harnett, Johnston, Pender, Robeson, Sampson and Wayne counties.
With its expansion, AgriSafe-NC will go to work in counties that rank among the top five in the state for diseases such as diabetes, stroke and lower lung disease. They are also counties with few health resources. Gates County has one physician, according to Robin Tutor-Marcom, interim director of the institute.
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Its mission is to improve the quality of life and quality of health for the financially needy of North Carolina. Wells Fargo Bank N.A. serves as sole trustee.