Active Living Resource Center • www.activelivingresources.org • Page 3
The task force’s rst action was to ask a team of nursing students from Ramapo College to conduct acommunity health assessment of Gareld. The nursingstudents conducted the assessment as part of their work for a community health course. Burke supervised thestudents.As part of their assessment, the nursing studentsmeasured the body-mass index (a measure of body fat)of all Gareld’s fth and sixth grade students, withthe permission of the school system and parents. Thenursing students discovered that the group of Gareldstudents they measured was more obese on average thanchildren in other New Jersey communities.(The nursing students also identied three other priorityhealth concerns during their assessment:The need for Spanish interpreters in city facilities.•Limited access to health care.•Increasing rates of domestic violence.)•The city council invited the nursing students to presenttheir ndings during the council’s May 2005 meeting.“The fact that the whole council listened to the students’ presentation on the health assessment at one of their regular meetings says something about the involvementof Gareld’s leadership right from the start,” observedBurke.The outcome of the presentation was that Gareldsigned on to the Mayors’ Wellness Campaign, makingan ofcial commitment to create a more active, healthier community, especially for children.
The Task Force Works to Improve Chil
dren’s Health—and Becomes FUN
wo private sector partners—the managed health careinsurers Amerigroup NJ and Horizon New JerseyHealth—and the New Jersey Department of Health andSenior Services funded the Childhood Obesity Interven
tion Task Force’s very rst initiative, a community healthresource guide that was printed and distributed via Gar
eld’s schools and city agencies.Reveille and Burke hoped task force members couldwork together to create a pilot program to increase physical activity and promote healthier eating for kids inGareld. They hoped, too, that Gareld could identifysome best practices to help ght childhood obesity thatmight even be shared with other communities in NewJersey. “We knew the problem,” said Reveille, “whatwe needed was to create interventions.”
Garfeld: A small city with a diverse population and some unusual assets.
With some 30,000 residents, an area of only 2.2 squaremiles and a long history (it was originally a settlementof the Leni Lenape, a Native American people), Garfieldis a densely populated, traditionally-built New Jerseycity. That is to say, the entire city consists of mixedused neighborhoods where residents can easily walkto schools, places of worship, shops and other frequentdestinations. Almost no street is wider than two lanes,reducing the amount of high speed traffic and makingstreets amenable to crosswalks.Garfield also represents demographically the face of NewJersey—one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse states.Children in the schools come from families speakingsome 66 languages, according to Frank Calandriello,Mayor of Garfield. Among these languages are Spanish,Polish, Italian, Russian, Macedonian, Korean, Hindi,Croatian and Arabic.Many of Garfield’s residents are working class who haverecently immigrated or arrived in earlier generationsto work in the town’s textile and paper mills. Mostof those mills have closed, including the recyclingcompany Garden State Paper, leaving some 100 variousenterprises. Average per capita income in Garfield,according to the 2000 census, was $19,530, contrastingwith the statewide average of $40,455.Garfield is both an Abbott and Urban Aid school district,meaning that the schools receive extra funding from thestate to help improve school facilities and educate themany students from low-income families.Despite economic challenges, Garfield is in many waysfortunate, according to Joanne Wendolowski, R.N., B.C.,M.S., Public Health Nurse Supervisor at HackensackMedical Center, one of Garfield’s main health careproviders. She noted the strong sense of community inGarfield and the habit that local organizations alreadyhave of working together. The public health departmentis well-respected, she said, giving their efforts weight andcredibility.But most important, said Wendolowski, is that the publichealth department takes a broad, activist view of itsrole in the community. “The public health departmentreally understands that their role is to make sure their community is a place where people can be healthy.” Also, for a city its size, Garfield is unusually rich in openspace—most families can walk to one of Garfield’s nineparks within five or 10 minutes. The city has severallocal organizations that can provide opportunities tobe physically active including a YMCA, a communityrecreation center and a Boys and Girls Club.