ST. ALBANS – Community partners and stakeholders in support of the RiseVT collaborative met at Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) Wednesday, to learn about its plans for advancement.

“This is about community and your ideas are going to be so important as to how we can scale this program up,” said Jill Berry Bowen, CEO of NMC and co-chair of the RiseVT movement. “Ultimately the result is to reduce obesity, but for now it’s really about making eating and physical activity enjoyable and pleasurable for this great community.”

RiseVT has aligned with the EPODE International Network (EIN), a European based non-for-profit that supports childhood obesity prevention programs across the world, via best practice sharing and capacity building initiatives. EPODE, an acronym of the French phrase ‘Ensemble Prévenons l’ObésitéDes Enfants,’ translates to ‘Together Let’s Prevent Childhood Obesity.’

With 46 member programs in 29 countries across the globe, EIN’s strength lies in its capacity to support members with scientific evaluation; multi-stakeholder collaboration; and public-private partnerships (PPP) at all levels.

“Rise-VT is now part of the EPODE International Network, since last year,” said Dr. Jean-Michel Borys, founder of EPODE, and a medical doctor specializing in Endocrinology, Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition.

“It’s so important as you start an initiative like this that you do an inventory of all of the great work that’s already going on in the community, and bring it together to do your own assessment as a community to figure out where there are gaps,” says Berry Bowen. “It’s not about recreating; it’s about accelerating what exists. We have such a wonderful program that we can lock in partners and they become a part of RiseVT.”

“We’re not here to replace what you’re doing (locally), because we see that there are so many wonderful things you’re doing,” said Pauline Harper, Director Advisory of EIN, in charge of strategic development.  “We’re here to help the team of RiseVT regroup their work within the community. We want to support your work and help you scale it up, into a larger movement under this potential branding of RiseVT,” she explained to community partners in attendance, ranging from NMC decision makers; RiseVT staffers; supervisory union members; Vermont Department of Health workers; doctors, counselors and business owners.

“What we have noticed since being here, to our amazing and astounding relief, is that RiseVT truly is a pioneer in what community based programs are all about,” Harper said. During an initial membership interview, RiseVT received a strong score based on the EPODE criteria, earning a place amongst the top ten international programs. EPODE credits RiseVT as a Community Based Program (CPB), which carries out interventions or activities in its schools and family settings, within the community at large. CPB’s also require political endorsement and multi-stakeholder support.

Saving Pennies, Losing Pounds

Over the last thirty years the number of overweight people has steadily increased, with over 1.4 billion obese adults worldwide; with 27 percent of Franklin County residents considered obese. The goal of RiseVT is to continue to reduce obesity down to 25 percent by 2019.

The community based approach – bringing the political, scientific, private and public sectors together to support families into adopting healthy lifestyles and tackle obesity – is to the make the healthy option, the easy option.

EPODE’s original pilot study, conducted in French villages in 1992, posed the challenge: ‘Can we change the behavior of a family due to the children, education and community mobilization?’

“Our findings showed a dramatic decrease in the prevalence of over-weight and obese children when the entire community was involved, and not just in a school setting,” said Borys.

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