health and wellness

Q&A with a Family Educator: Educating Parents about the Measles Outbreak

Q&A with a Family Educator: Educating Parents about the Measles Outbreak 150 150 Lisa Bryant

Recent reports now confirm the measles outbreak in Minnesota has spread to four counties, the most recent is LeSueur County, south of the Twin Cities. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 69 as of May 24. These cases are primarily affecting unvaccinated children ranging in age from 0 to 17 years. Way to Grow’s work in the community includes health and wellness education to help families prepare their children for success. We spoke to our Family Educators to find out how they are educating parents about the measles virus to better prepare them to make decisions regarding the health of their children.

Shamsa Idle, a Family Educator and 19-year employee with Way to Grow, was born and raised in Somalia, where she earned her degree as an RN. She worked with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (MCA), and with the World Food Programme (WFP) to eliminate malnutrition and provide care to babies suffering from low birth weight.

What information are you and other Family Educators telling families about the measles virus?

During home visits since the outbreak, Family Educators, like myself, have been asking parents if their children’s immunizations are up to date, providing them with information about the symptoms of measles, vaccination and care information, as well as providing them with resources recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health. We are emphasizing to our families how important it is to have their children vaccinated for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) and to watch for symptoms. If a family’s child has not been vaccinated, we encourage them to call their clinic  and schedule a vaccination immediately. If they have questions, they can always ask me; otherwise, they can call their doctor.

What are some of the questions your families are asking about the virus?

One question parents have been asking is what are the symptoms? I tell them, symptoms include a fever, rash and runny nose, which occur between eight and 12 days after expose to the virus. Another question they’ve asked is if their child contracts the virus, how many days will he/she be out of school? I let them know that their child will have to stay home from school for 21 days, and this is for the safety of their child, as well as all other children. But the key question every Somali parent has been asking is if their child can become autistic as a result getting the measles vaccine. I tell them there is no direct cause-related incidence of a child becoming autistic from the MMR vaccine.

Explain why the rate of unvaccinated children is high within Minnesota’s Somali community?

It has been a long-time issue, even before this recent outbreak. First, I understand it was a myth started by a London-based researcher who wrote a paper reporting cases of autism triggered by the MMR vaccine, and everyone believed it. Second, the Somali people are a people who communicate with one another a great deal. This myth may have been passed on from one person to the next, or one group of people to another in conversation. Third, the media has helped spread the myth within the Somali community.

Has any Way to Grow family’s child contracted the measles virus?

No. I am pleased to say that no WTG children have contracted measles.

As an RN who has worked with children who have suffered from dire health conditions, what advice can you offer WTG families?

My first advice is regarding the measles virus. Please, make certain your child’s immunizations are current. If they are not, get your child vaccinated immediately.

For School Success, Start with Breakfast

For School Success, Start with Breakfast 2048 1362 Ivy Marsnik

Parents know that school mornings can be the busiest time of the day. Between getting kids to school on time, signing permission slips, making sure homework is done, and everything else, breakfast can be a last minute thought. However, unless you are certain your child is eating breakfast at school, breakfast at home is vitally important.

For years we’ve been told we need to eat breakfast. It’s undeniably good for you! Every night, most of us fast, or go a period of time without food, for eight to ten hours as we sleep. To break the fast, it is important we eat breakfast and jump start our day. Breakfast provides important energy to the body and the brain which in turn enables all of us, including our children, to feel better, think better, learn better, and perform better.

Here are a few ideas for a healthy, quick, and low-cost breakfast on those busy mornings:

  • Enjoy homemade granola on top of a fruit and yogurt parfait, or as a standalone cereal (great hot or cold)
  • Make oatmeal with fat-free or low-fat milk and add fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruit
  • Try grits with light coconut milk with canned mango or peaches in light syrup or its own juices
  • Make a fruit smoothie with low-fat milk, fruit, and peanut butter
  • For a special treat, enjoy a delicious fruit tart

Eating breakfast is a lifelong habit worth teaching your child. It is important to remember that as the parent, you set the example. Even if you are not usually hungry in the morning, or don’t like typical breakfast foods, try a light yet well-balanced breakfast with at least three food groups. The reality is, almost any dish can be eaten for breakfast. So go ahead and serve those leftovers!

By planning ahead and forming good habits, your family will see that eating breakfast is not only quick and easy, but is also a great way to spend time in the kitchen together and set your day off to a strong start.


The University of Minnesota Extension’s Health and Nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education program is excited to partner with Way to Grow and has a shared vision for healthier families. Our education provides Minnesota families with tools and strategies to help counter the effects of food insecurity, poverty and obesity. One of the classes we offer is Cooking Matters® Minnesota. This is a six-week series of cooking-based nutrition education program that empowers people to eat healthier and make better use of their food resources. Program graduates report an increase in confidence to prepare healthy meals and excitement over understanding food labels and ways to stretch food dollars. Parents realize that small changes in how their families eat can make big differences in the end. Most importantly more families find making the healthy choice is now a much easier choice.

For more information on the University of Minnesota Extension’s Health and Nutrition, SNAP-Ed program, contact: Evalyn Cabrey, MS, RD, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator (Metro), at ecarbrey@umn.edu or 612-624-9942.

This article was written by Sharmyn Phipps, SNAP-Ed Educator
University of Minnesota Extension, Health and Nutrition Programs, SNAP Education

Screening at Three

Screening at Three 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way to Grow staff were happy to attend Training of Trainers, a new course developed through a partnership between Generation Next, Minnesota Departments of Education and Health, and several community partners. This training is part of Generation Next’s Kindergarten Readiness Action Plan, which includes an initial strategy of working through community partners in Saint Paul and Minneapolis to ensure every 3 year old completes Early Childhood Screening and gets connected to opportunities to support school readiness.

Early childhood screening is critical to identifying developmental delays, learning disabilities, speech disorders, and many other cognitive and/or physical impairments that may affect a child’s ability to learn.  The earlier we are able to recognize these factors, the earlier we can work with the family in overcoming such hurdles.  We know that families are more likely to get their three year olds screened and follow-through to resources and opportunities if they are supported by the “trusted connectors” in their lives.  This Early Childhood Screening training is designed to give those connectors the information they need to effectively refer families to Early Childhood Screening and support them in follow-through to resources.

We’re pleased to be part of the very first cadre of trainers who will offer the Early Childhood Screening training to all types of connectors!

The Starting Line

The Starting Line 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

“From the moment of conception to the initial, tentative step into a kindergarten classroom, early childhood development takes place at a rate that exceeds any other stage of life” (National Research Council & Institute of Medicine). It’s no secret that women who receive prenatal care in their first trimester of pregnancy (up to 12 weeks) tend to have healthier babies. But with just 78% receiving adequate* care across the state and Hennepin county, that leaves over one in five expectant mothers un- or under-served (Minnesota Department of Health).

So who are the mothers who fall in this category? Statistically, young, low-income mothers within certain racial and ethnic groups and with fewer years of formal education are far less likely to receive prenatal care. Taking one case study for example, in 1988, Minnesota had the fifth worst record for early prenatal care in the country. Delving deeper, researchers found that only 16% of Hmong women sought prenatal care in the first trimester and nearly a third delayed care until the final three months of pregnancy (Minnesota Medicine).

Though today, the rate of Hmong women accessing prenatal care has improved, we continue to see African American, Native American, and Latino populations remain in need of greater prenatal attention. Both Latino and Native American populations in Minnesota, for instance, have a teen birthrate that is more than three times higher than that of white teens.

It is no secret that under-serving these families now lead to even greater disparities down the road. Healthy pregnancies and full-term births are the first step in ensuring infants and toddlers are reaching developmental milestones from the moment they are born. Recognizing that prenatal care is critical to preparing children for a successful future, Way to Grow incorporates prenatal education into our holistic home visiting model. Last year, we served 157 expectant parents in Minneapolis by monitoring and encouraging attending prenatal appointments, providing nutritional education, and offering support groups for both teen and new parents.  Through these methods, we are able to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and ensure each infant’s health and development is on track.

Prenatal Education“Way to Grow recognizes that the earlier support is provided to families, the more successful the intervention,” Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Health Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health says. “Way to Grow was built on proven interventions that have promoted and maintained health, making them a wonderful resource for families and communities in creating opportunities and promoting healthy children in Minneapolis.”

 

*Defined as receiving nine or more prenatal visits during pregnancy and being seen in the first trimester.

Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the Challenge 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Could you feed four on just $10 and one in store coupon?  Sound like a piece of cake?  How about including at least one item from each of the five food groups with the same amount?

Welcome to the $10 grocery challenge!

Our first group of parents to participate in the challenge successfully accomplished just that last night with the help of Family Educator, Collette.  Collette is one of six Family Educators who will lead at least one grocery tour this month with the goal of increasing access to and awareness of healthy living.  “By starting with parent education, we’ll see a definite trickle-down effect.  Not only can those parents lead and inform others in their own families and in their communities, but their children pick up on those healthy habits as well.  We want our kids to be healthy.  When they don’t have healthy diets, they really aren’t ready for school,” Collette explains.

The grocery tours are not only a part of Way to Grow’s holistic approach, but are completed in conjunction with our six-week Cooking Matters program led in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension Services and funded by Cargill.  Another Cooking Matters series kicks off tomorrow.  We’re excited to give more parents and families the opportunity to learn to cook healthy meals together, one plate at a time.

Cooking Matters Class Comes to a Delicious End

Cooking Matters Class Comes to a Delicious End 541 271 Way to Grow

In week five of Way to Grow’s six week Cooking Matters class, the group took a trip to Cub Foods. But this was unlike any ordinary trip to the grocery store. The group was posed with a challenge: using $10 or less, buy ingredients for a meal that incorporates all five food groups and feeds four.

Cherise rose to the challenge, choosing ground turkey, a tomato, whole wheat tortillas, cheese and romaine lettuce. While she normally grabs iceberg lettuce, instructor Erin informed her that the darker color of the romaine means it’s packed with more good-for-you nutrition, so Cherise decided to branch out. The mini lesson is just one small example of the knowledge Cooking Matters participants learn during any given class.

The mixture of staying under the $10 budget, branching out to try new foods and adding a dash of creativity sent Cherise home with a brand new cooking pan! Her children and sister enjoyed the meal, she said; though, the romaine lettuce wasn’t a hit with her toddler, who thought it was a toy leaf.

The final Cooking Matters class went out on a zesty note today, as participants made and consumed a fabulous meal of homemade corn tortilla chips, mango salsa and a refreshing apple-lime fizz drink.

The class wrapped up with a graduation. Each participant received a certificate of completion, a reusable grocery bag filled with healthy foods and a cookbook with affordable meal and snack ideas. Participants thanked the instructors, citing that they now know how to better understand nutrition labels, purchase healthier foods and stick to a grocery budget.

Cooking Matters’ mission is to help families shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. Huge thanks to Cargill for providing the class funds, the University of Minnesota Extension for teaching the class and the Center for Families for hosting.

Check out our Facebook page for a gallery of photos from today’s final class.

Twelve Days of Growing: Day 9

Twelve Days of Growing: Day 9 150 150 Way to Grow

Day 9 – 9 children9 out of 10 Way to Grow children entering kindergarten were up-to-date on recommended immunizations during 2013. Our commitment to health and wellness extends from prenatal checkups and new parent support groups to Cooking Matters and our Dream Tracks teen parenting program. With key community partnerships and connections to valuable resources, we help lay the foundation for a healthy home.

We hope you’ll consider a making a gift to Way to Grow a part of your holiday giving. Your tax-deductible gift will continue to fund our Great by Eight initiative, which provides outcome-based, holistic, year-round, language-to-language, early education programming to the families and children we serve.

To make a contribution, please click here or phone Melissa Meyer at (612) 874-4740.  To learn more about our programs, please explore our website.

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