Selected FCS Extension Program Impacts from 2008
- “What they need to know”: Diabetes education programs fill gap
- OSU Extension offers a New Start for those facing bankruptcy
- Students get an eye-opener with “Real Money, Real World”
- Extension programs focus on health, weight management
Newly diagnosed with diabetes, Bob Foor needed information. “The doctor tells you very, very little,” said Foor, 68. “You go to the drug store, and they tell you very little. There’s no one to tell new diabetics what they need to know.” That is, until he heard about “Dining with Diabetes”—“It definitely helped fill that void.”
During the three-session class at the Nutcracker Restaurant in Pataskala, participants enjoyed dinner and tasted additional foods prepared on-site while learning about portion sizes, food labels, and how to prepare well-balanced, healthy meals. Shari Gallup, OSU Extension educator in Licking County who co-teaches the classes with a registered dietitian, is a strong believer in the program. “People with diabetes just want to live a life free of complications,” Gallup said. “They don’t want problems with their eyesight or kidneys, and they want to know how to stay healthy. Dining with Diabetes is about helping people change unhealthy behaviors. It is guided by social cognitive theory, which emphasizes the interaction of environment, participant, and behavior. If people can see the food and taste it, they’re more likely to go home and try it.”
The need for such classes is stronger than ever. “Nationally, 24 million people have diabetes and 57 million have pre-diabetes,” said Nancy Schaefer, public health nutritionist and health educator of the Ohio Health Department’s Ohio Diabetes Prevention and Control Program. The number in Ohio is approaching 1 million, she said. Diabetes is the fifth-leading cause of death in Ohio and the No. 1 cause of adult blindness, amputations, and kidney failure. “It’s overwhelming the healthcare system.” Schaefer said programs such as Dining with Diabetes are essential to helping people manage the disease. “Doctors can’t tell you how to prepare food,” she said.
The informal classroom setting also helps participants learn from each other. “They form bonds,” Schaefer said. “That doesn’t happen in a clinical setting.” OSU Extension began offering Dining with Diabetes in 2003. Now an OSU Extension Signature Program, it’s offered in 70 counties, with about 2,000 Ohioans taking the classes each year, said Cindy Oliveri, Extension family and consumer sciences specialist and coordinator of the OSU Extension Diabetes Education Team.
The team is now building on the program’s success by partnering with Ohio University in Washington County and local YMCAs throughout the state to assist with a 10-week diabetes selfmanagement program funded by the Ohio Department of Health’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Program. The programs provide high-risk individuals with blood glucose screenings and monitored physical activity, as well as in-depth nutrition counseling. Monadine Mattey, FCS Extension educator in Pike County, said the program has a huge impact. In the first class she helped teach, “blood sugar level averages dropped 27 points between the first and tenth class,” she said. Algnette McNelly, fitness coordinator at the Pike County YMCA, said even she learned things during the class: “When Monadine showed what people actually consume today compared with what a proper serving size is— it was eye-opening for everyone.”
Brenda Vore was used to living on the comfortable paychecks she received when working overtime at Hydro Aluminum in Shelby County. “And then all of a sudden, I didn’t have it (overtime) any more. I went back to my base income.” She was in over her head and on the road to filing bankruptcy. Vore, 57, said overuse of credit cards was at the heart of her troubles. When she had cataract surgery, she had to charge her copays; “I just didn’t have the money.” After visiting a financial counselor, she realized bankruptcy was her only option.
Vore is far from alone. In the first six months of 2008, 28,674 bankruptcies were filed in Ohio—a 14.2 percent increase over the same time period in 2007. In late 2005, new regulations required people filing for bankruptcy to complete a two-hour financial management class. In early 2006, OSU Extension began offering “New Start for Financial Success.” It is now offered in 44 counties, and, as an OSU Extension Signature Program, continues to grow. Eighteen percent of New Start participants are over age 60, said Sharon Seiling, OSU Extension specialist in family resource management. “It’s a pretty hard hill to climb to get back on track if you’re that age. But having the right tools can help.”
Following U.S. Bankruptcy Court guidelines, the class covers spending plans, money management, wise use of credit, and how to get consumer information. “I get the sense that people are living on the edge,” said Nancy Hudson, OSU Extension specialist in family finances. “They don’t have an emergency fund. They don’t have any cushion. So many people say they were doing OK until the car broke down, or they lost their job, or they had an accident and started getting medical bills.”
Because of what she learned in New Start, Vore now takes a portion of each paycheck and puts it into her savings account. “I don’t touch it,” she said. Plus, she no longer buys anything on impulse and she no longer has a credit card. “I got an offer in the mail the other day. I shredded it.” Roger Isla, an attorney in Steubenville, says many of his clients appreciate having a local option for the class. “Most of the programs (that fulfill the requirement) aren’t offered anywhere near here,” he said. “There are options to take the class over the phone or on the Internet, but that can be a hassle— they get cut off. A lot of my clients, especially elderly ones, want to talk with a real person. They actually seem to like the class. It’s very informative.” Bankruptcy filers throughout Ohio, as well as those in neighboring states, can take the New Start class. For more information: newstart.osu.edu
Alarming levels of debt, bankruptcies, and foreclosures throughout Ohio add up to a clear conclusion—the state has a vital need for financial education. And starting early is key: a 2008 national survey revealed high-school seniors could correctly answer just 48 percent of questions on financial basics such as credit, savings, insurance, and retirement. That’s where “Real Money, Real World” comes in.
In 2005, a team of OSU Extension professionals developed the six-lesson curriculum to help young people become aware of the money-management skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives. Designed to be a partnership of local Extension educators, schools, and community volunteers, the program focuses on basic finance principles, including how education and occupation affect income; how expenses and paycheck deductions add up; and how to be smart in using checking accounts, savings, and credit. And it works. “In 15 years of teaching, I can say without a doubt that it is one of the best tools I’ve ever had in the classroom,” said Beth Melegari, seventh-grade teacher at Northwestern Middle School in Wayne County.
In Real Money, Real World, students assume the role of a 25-year-old adult. They choose (or are assigned) one of 108 occupations with a corresponding salary, and find out how many children they’re raising. After initial lessons, the program culminates in a real-life hour-long simulation: The students visit various booths staffed by community volunteers to pay for their housing, utilities, child care, transportation costs, insurance, phone and internet access, groceries, and other items typical in a family budget. “The simulation is eye-opening,” said Nancy Clendenen, Gifted and Talented Specialist of Columbus City Schools. With the assistance of Susan Shockey, Franklin County Extension educator, Clendenen took Clinton Middle School eighth-graders through the program in 2008. “These kids want $300 tennis shoes and jeans, but afterward, they say ‘This is going to change.’”
A 2008 evaluation of 3,563 participants showed that the program makes a dramatic difference in raising youths’ awareness about the costs to maintain a household and the interrelationships among educational levels, jobs, and income. In fact, awareness increased by nearly 50 percentage points on concepts such as the cost to maintain a household, expenses to care for children, and the effect of paycheck deductions. “The program really has an impact,” said Beth Bridgeman, educator in Greene County and one of the original creators of the program. “After the simulation, they say they realize they’ll have to stay in school longer and delay having kids— it’s a valuable tool.”
Nancy Hudson, family finance specialist for OSU Extension, said different versions of this type of simulation have been around for many years with anecdotal evidence of success. But Ohio’s recent focused funding coupled with a broad statewide evaluation to document Real Money, Real World’s impact is unique. Real Money, Real World is now an OSU Extension Signature Program. It has been endorsed on the Ohio Treasurer of State’s consumer finance web site (http://www.yourmoneynowonline.org/), and it supports standards of S.B. 311, which requires that Ohio high schools implement personal financial education programs for students entering high school in 2010.
Residents of Hancock County are stepping more lightly on the Earth these days. During a 12-week program in 2008, they lost 4.5 tons. And that’s just what the county office of Ohio State University Extension can document as part of the “Be Healthy Now: A Challenge for Fitness” campaign.
Barbara Brahm, family and consumer sciences educator for OSU Extension in Hancock County, spearheaded the effort with her office and said she knows it had numerous ripple effects. “One couple called us to say they didn’t sign up for the program because they were afraid they wouldn’t commit to it,” Brahm said. “But it did inspire them, and between January and June, they each had lost 50 pounds, and they’re still losing. They wanted us to know we had planted seeds.”
Forty counties offer Healthy Weight Management programs through OSU Extension, said Doris Herringshaw, who led the initiative through mid-2008. The focus is important. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly one-third of American adults are obese, increasing the risk of hypertension, osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical problems associated with overweight and obesity accounted for 9.1 percent of total U.S. medical expenditures in 1998, reaching as high as $78.5 billion, and they likely have risen since then.
Brahm began coordinating Hancock County’s effort in summer 2007 and brought together many community partners, including the Findlay City Health Department, Blanchard Valley Hospital, the Findlay YMCA, The University of Findlay, and local schools and businesses. In all, 3,655 people signed up for the program on 665 teams. The 901 participants who took part in the “weigh-out” during the program’s final week registered a total weight loss of 9,024 pounds. “What I feel best about is that hundreds and hundreds of community members made a decision to live more healthy lifestyles,” Brahm said as she coordinated efforts for the 2009 campaign.
“Be Healthy Now” was modeled after a 2007 program, “New Year, New You,” in Van Wert County, in which 1,000 people participated. “That’s a huge number for our county,” said Carol Trice, FCS educator who worked with local partners to bring the program back in 2009. The 65 teams that completed the program lost a combined 3,534 pounds. The Van Wert County effort started when Nancy Bowen-Ellzey, Extension educator in the Van Wert County Economic Development Office, noted that local businesses listed healthcare costs as their No. 1 issue for several years running. “I thought Extension should try to do something about it,” she said. When “New Year, New You” began, “Businesses were ecstatic.”
Jan White, vice president of human resources and facilities for Central Insurance Co. in Van Wert, was one of the biggest cheerleaders. “Anyone could get involved,” she said. “What I liked about it was that it focused on education about changing to a healthier lifestyle. It had weight loss goals, but it wasn’t exclusively about that.”
Both Trice and Brahm said one key to success included focusing on both good nutrition and physical activity. The other key was the formation of teams. Lisa Barlage, FCS educator in Ross County who co-chairs an ongoing “Worksite Wellness” program, said teams help there, too. “If everyone else is doing their part, you feel guilty if you let people down. And there’s the competition factor, too. We have two teams from our office, and if one pulls ahead, it motivates the other to work a little harder the next week.”