Research Creates Opportunity for GWU Students to Partner with Community

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College of Health Sciences Participates in Program to Target Childhood Obesity

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—A primary focus of the Gardner-Webb Hunt School of Nursing is to create hands-on opportunities for students to serve in their communities. Recently, nursing instructors Becky Threatt and Sharon Hall worked on a research project that will connect the College of Health Sciences with a community health initiative.

Threatt and Hall, also students in the GWU Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, were assigned a project on epidemiology, the study of how disease spreads and can be controlled. Because nutrition is a topic both of them are interested in, they chose to focus on preventing childhood obesity. They worked to provide educational materials to parents of preschoolers, because studies show that if a child is obese at the time they enter kindergarten, they have a 50 percent chance of being obese as an adult.

Through their research, they contacted the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program at the Cleveland County Public Health Center in Shelby, N.C., and were put in touch with Shelly Youngblood, RN, Quality Improvement Coordinator for Carolina Community Health Partnership (CCHP). “She told us about an educational program they were planning to present at day cares in the Shelby area,” Threatt explained. “Sharon thought it would be an opportunity for our students to help by teaching some of the classes.”

Sharon Hall teaches a class at the Gardner-Webb College of Health Sciences.

The program involves the CCHP Pediatric Quality Improvement Team and Cleveland County Partnership for Children Early Head Start Program, for children ages 0-3. The team will work with students in GWU’s pre-licensure nursing, nurse practitioner and physical therapy programs to prepare lessons on specific topics that will be reviewed by GWU instructors and members of the Pediatric Quality Improvement Team. The students will present the lessons to the Early Head Start program parents at their monthly meetings, which are held at eight day care centers in Shelby that provide the Early Head Start Program.

Dr. Rita Chen, Pediatric Physician Champion of the Pediatric Quality Improvement Team, has applied for a Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) grant to help fund supplies for the lessons and incentives for the parents to attend the meetings. The team hopes that partnering with students and instructors in the GWU College of Health Sciences will help sustain this project for years to come.

“I’m excited about how our school can be involved in the community,” Hall affirmed. “These partnerships are invaluable learning opportunities for our students.”

The effectiveness of the lessons will be measured by administering parent surveys at the first meeting and again every six months. “We hope that by opening up meaningful dialogue with the parents, better choices will be made for the child by the parent,” Youngblood assessed. “From a broader perspective, we are hoping to see this spread through the family to affect the parent’s choices for themselves and any other children they have or may have in the future.”

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University’s purpose is to advance the Kingdom of God through Christian higher education by preparing graduates for professional and personal success, instilling in them a deep commitment to service and leadership, and equipping them for well-rounded lives of lasting impact, Pro Deo et Humanitate (For God and Humanity).