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Community Innovator Award Profile: Let’s Move! Missoula

On August 5, 2015, NWCPHP recognized Let’s Move! Missoula with the 2015 Community Innovator Award as part of the center’s 25th Anniversary Reception. The program aims to change current culture to support healthy eating and active living, ensuring all kids have a healthier start in life.

On August 5, 2015, NWCPHP recognized Let's Move! Missoula with the 2015 Community Innovator Award as part of the center's 25th Anniversary Reception. The program aims to change current culture to support healthy eating and active living, ensuring all kids have a healthier start in life.

September 1, 2015

With 28 percent of Missoula County, Montana children considered overweight or obese, the Missoula City-County Health Department realized Missoula had not escaped the national public health epidemic of childhood obesity. It would take a community-wide effort to reverse the rates. Let's Move! Missoula aims to do just that.

The program, which is housed at the health department and based on First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! model, combines education, programs, policy, and advocacy to create healthy environments for and decrease obesity among Missoula County children. Let's Move! Missoula works to: give parents and caregivers the tools they need to make healthy choices in early childhood; improve nutrition in schools, childcare and after-school programs; increase physical activity opportunities; and make healthy food affordable and accessible.

Since its inception, Let's Move! Missoula has brought together nonprofit, business, community, and public-sector agencies to create change based on evidence-based practices. A key turning point in the initiative was the 2011 Summit to Prevent Childhood Obesity, which convened local leaders and national experts to discuss the costly impacts of obesity on children's social, emotional, and physical health. Attendees listened to the research and responded and a Let's Move! Missoula leadership team was convened. Partners range from local government to medical centers, hospitals to public school systems, and local newspapers to universities. This cross-sector, community-wide approach is what makes Let's Move! Missoula so innovative. The program has been able to draw upon these unique relationships to create a multi-pronged approach targeting families, child care centers, schools, community organizations and coalitions, and health care providers.

Let's Move! Missoula - Lisa Beczkiewicz

Let’s Move! Missoula Coordinator, Lisa Beczkiewicz, accepting the Community Innovator Award at NWCPHP’s 25th Anniversary Celebration.

"It's all about relationships," said Let's Move! Missoula Coordinator Lisa Beczkiewicz. "We're lucky here in Missoula because we are such a small, close-knit community. The summit was key because it brought everyone together and presented why preventing childhood obesity is such an important issue. Afterwards, we had local leaders say, 'We can and should do something about this because it's important for our community'."

Let's Move! Missoula has focused on working where kids spend a majority of their time—at schools and child care—to increase physical activity and improve nutrition. In 2013 and 2014, the program brought together 750 representatives from education, health, community, and youth organizations for two childhood obesity summits. One summit focused on physical activity in the schools and the other focused on nutrition in the schools. In 2015, Let's Move! Missoula trained 538 teachers in Take 10! and Brain Breaks curricula, short physical activity exercises that can be integrated into the school day. The program helped implement nutritional policies for the county's workplace and for schools, improving the nutritional quality of food in places such as vending machines. Additionally, health care providers can now issue "walking prescriptions" on a newly developed trail.

In the future, Let's Move! Missoula hopes to have a better understanding of whether Missoula children's obesity rates are improving across all age groups, from early childhood to high school. The program is creating YouTube videos to help teachers learn and integrate physical activity into their classrooms. Let's Move! Missoula will also be working with school wellness councils to integrate nutrition and physical activity standards into school policies and procedures.

"Whether a child is at day care, a local park, their neighborhood, home, or school, there are support systems in place to encourage healthy behaviors," said Beczkiewicz. "The challenge and the hope is that we can make healthy behavior the social norm. We want people to demand water, not sugary drinks; salads, not french fries. We're trying to shift an entire culture. It's a challenge, but I believe everyone wants what's best for their kids, and I feel very excited to work in a community that wants to build a healthier Missoula for everybody."

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