In 2015, the Virginia County Health Rankings (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), which measures the overall health of each county in all 50 states, ranked the City of Portsmouth at 118th for its health performance. The health ranking is one of the tools used to determine the need for educational and community-based health programs in an area.
In addition, the Healthy People 2020 Initiative (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotions) now encourages the development of programs and partnerships that can make a difference in communities’ health outcomes. Employee wellness programs were especially noted for gains in disease prevention and injury and improvement in health and quality of life.
According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Situation Analysis Survey, City of Portsmouth citizens reported that the most important issue regarding health and wellness is learning healthy eating habits and nutrition.
Each year in March, Crystal Barber — the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent and registered dietitian for the VCE–City of Portsmouth office — incorporates National Nutrition Month (NNM) campaign messages, along with research-based information provided by VCE to support individual and family health education needs.
The 2018 NNM event was held in the Portsmouth City Hall lobby, and 225 individuals visited the exhibit. To help promote the theme, “Go Further With Food,” free handouts on nutrition and wellness, upcoming programs, and incentives were provided. Assisting with this effort were Anthem Healthcare representative Lelani Lawrence and Portsmouth Public library staff member LuKendra Banks.
Healthy eating samples were set up to educate participants about making healthy food and drink choices. Cabot Cheese donated several varieties of portioned, sliced cheese, nutrition and wellness educational brochures, and recipes.
The Department of Parks and Recreation and Leisure Services Assistant Director Mark Palamarchuck helped with food storage and setup for cold items to ensure the safety of perishable healthy snacks. The Portsmouth Public Library provided a list of nutrition and wellness books by credible authors that addressed current nutrition trends. The Portsmouth Department of Marketing, Communications, and Tourism donated City of Portsmouth giveaways.
Master Food Volunteer Regina Jones and FCS Occasional Volunteer Regina Hines also assisted with the event.
Comments were submitted by 52 of the 225 participants:
- 98 percent of participants stated that the display was very informative and well-organized;
- 95 percent of participants stated that the program increased their knowledge about nutrition, wellness, and other VCE programs.
- “Love the way the information was provided across the life span.”
- “This event encourages people to keep a healthy lifestyle.”
- “The free handouts on the tables were very informative. Some info I can share with my family.”
- “The event has been beneficial for me. Every year, I learn something from the interaction and the handouts, and enjoy the healthy snacks. There have been some that I actually purchased while shopping for groceries, for example, hummus.”
- “Love the setup. Really looking forward to speaking to the dietitian in-depth.”
- “The presenters were knowledgeable and friendly, and I loved the healthy snacks and Portsmouth incentives.”
- “This event has given me new motivation, and I plan to enroll in the VCE Diabetes Prevention Program.”
- “Please continue to be seen at City Hall on a regular basis as a reminder to us that ‘We Are What We Eat.'”
- “It was great to get so much valuable information on nutrition and wellness. I also got lots of info on the Master Gardeners.”
- “This was a great opportunity for the employees of Portsmouth to learn about nutrition. The display is very informative, and the programs are wonderful.”
Mark Palamarchuck suggested that the Department of Parks and Recreation become more involved in the event. It was determined that a National Nutrition Month Wellness Display Planning Committee should be established for next year’s event. Current and new partners, including city employees and residents, are invited to become a part of this impactful effort geared towards improving the health of our city.
Please contact Crystal Barber at 757-393-5125 if you are interested in serving on this committee.