What is the 4-Health program?

The 4-Health program consists of 10 action packed sessions led by a facilitator and focused on providing important nutrition, physical activity, and body image information, as well as parenting and family communication skills to improve preteen and family health. Program materials consist of a Parent Guide for participants and a Facilitator Guide for Extension Agents or other educators teaching/facilitating the program.

What are the goals of the 4-Health program?

The main goal of the 4-Health program is to change the behaviors of parents/families and children in order to promote health and well-being while reducing the risk of obesity.Learning objectives include:

1. Participants will gain knowledge about healthy diets, physical activity, and improved body image.

2. Participants will enhance their understanding, skills, and potential roles as positive change agents.

3. Participants will learn and practice a series of cognitive-behavioral exercises that encourage them to practice specific skills within the family/home setting.

What topics are covered?

The program focuses on the following topics:

Food and Nutrition: Choose foods and beverages packed with nutrients, eat meals and snacks regularly, choose food portions appropriate for activity level, increase time when family eats together, practice the principles of normal, healthy eating, and avoid unhealthy weight control practices.

Physical Activity; Create an accessible physical environment that promotes an active lifestyle, reduce sedentary time, promote physical activity through family communication, and take advantage of community sites that provide places for physical activity.

Positive Body Image; Focus on each individual’s positive traits and capability, encourage size and body acceptance of self and others, understand media and environmental influences on the development of body image, teach and model healthy self-esteem, respect, and confidence.

Active Parenting and Family Communication; Practice good communication skills, provide high levels of love, warmth, and boundaries, advocate for preteens, provide opportunities for preteens to grow and develop an identity.

What makes the 4-Health program unique?

This program was designed for busy parents/guardians with time constraints. It consists of 10 educational sessions that provide useful and engaging information and activities, while allowing a high level of participant interaction and discussion. Sessions are action packed and combine activities that help participants to understand and deal with real-life situations, as well as provide practical information for preteens and families. Examples of activities include opportunities for cooking new food, exploring invigorating physical activities, and sharing parenting success stories.

What are participants saying after completing the 4-Health program?

What 4-Health program participants said about…

Physical Activity: “I have decided to start dinner 30 minutes later so I can play outside with the kids. We are doing things we all enjoy together and compromising on what we do. If I feel tired, I try to go for a walk or bike ride with the kids.”

Body Image: “I am more aware of the way I listen to/respond to my daughter’s comments about her body. It’s more of a conversation now then it was before this program.”

Active Parenting: “I do things with the children instead of telling them to do physical activity, realizing that I am their most important role model.”

Food and Nutrition: “My family is now very aware of the importance of having a plate full of color. We now use whole wheat pasta and try to eat some sort of fresh vegetable or fruit daily.”

Do you have any program evaluation results?

Program evaluation results from 2009-2011 indicated that 73% of 4-Health program participants reported changed behaviors for their family in the areas of improving body image and physical activity, 77% reported changed behavior in parenting and family communication, and 94% of participants reported changing their family’s food and nutrition behaviors as a result of the program.

Where can I read more about 4-Health?

4-Health Peer-Reviewed Publications:

1. Benke, C., Bailey, S., Eldridge, G., Lynch, W., Martz, J., & Paul, L. (2013). 4-Health: A programmatic evaluation of a parent-based childhood obesity prevention program. Journal of Youth Development 8(3). http://nae4a.memberclicks.net/assets/documents/jyd/jyd_130803.pdf

2. Benke, C., Bailey, S., Martz, J., Paul, L., Lynch, W., & Eldridge, G. (2013). Developing a parent-centered obesity prevention program for 4-H families: Implications for extension family programming. Journal of Extension. http://www.joe.org/joe/2013june/a8.php

3. Lynch, W.C., Martz, J., Eldridge, G., Bailey, S., Benke, C., & Paul, L.C. (2012). Childhood obesity prevention in rural settings: background, rationale, and study design of ‘4-Health,’ a parent-only intervention. BMC Public Health 2012, 12:255. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/12/2554

4. Eldridge, G., Lynch, W.C., Bailey, S., Benke, C., Martz, J. & Paul, L.C. (2011). Parenting Practices that can Prevent or Reduce Childhood Obesity. Journal of Youth Development6(2).