Making the Connection Between Good Nutrition and Good Health —
Reflecting Alameda Health System’s deep commitment to the community, its Health Excellence and Academic Leadership Program (HEAL) exposes middle and high school students to careers in healthcare. The Program collaborates with more than 15 East Bay schools to reach at-risk youth from low-income neighborhoods. Youth participate in a variety of internship and mentoring experiences featuring hands-on learning and supervised direct patient care in a range of clinical settings at Highland Hospital and Eastmont Wellness Center. Since 1991, HEAL has provided more than 1,000 paid internships and served more than 6,000 youth.
While its focus is on health careers exploration, HEAL goes far beyond this by offering academic support, including tutoring and guidance with the college application process, and youth leadership development seminars.
Recognizing that the health of the community begins with each individual, HEAL also provides life coaching and wellness support—a component that distinguishes it from other pipeline programs. Through workshops on life skills, positive relationships, health and wellness, HEAL encourages youth to lead productive, healthy lives, and to serve as role models for others.
While HEAL models good health habits by providing nutritious snacks and having a strict “no soda, no chips, no candy” policy, a recent evaluation revealed that this isn’t enough to impact participants’ eating habits. The missing link was involvement of parents in reinforcing these messages and making healthy food available at home.
So, Andria Batise, long-time Youth Coordinator with HEAL and now Interim Manager, designed a series of wellness workshops to bring parents and youth participants together in a shared learning experience. To make her vision a reality, Andria turned to the AHS Foundation, which secured a grant from The California Wellness Foundation to fund the workshop series.
Drawing on Highland’s successful childhood obesity prevention program, Bite-to-Balance, the workshops will feature discussions of the essential connection between good nutrition and good health, and how to prepare healthy meals within time and resource constraints. At each session, participating families will receive a free grocery bag full of locally-grown produce and will learn how to make appealing, culturally-appropriate meals using the contents.