Intensive work in dozens of Israeli communities by JDC and 360o – The National Program for Children & Youth at Risk brought the unmet needs of parents of babies and young children to the forefront.
Few programs touched on parents’ overwhelming desire to become “good parents” and establish healthy family routines and lifestyles. In addition, Israeli statistics show that by the time children reach school age more than 30 percent are overweight. Unhealthy habits start from birth and have compounding effects as children continue to develop. Obesity, lack of exercise, and other health-related issues do not affect all children equally, disproportionately impacting children from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Enter JDC’s “Healthy Parenting” program – an adaptation of England’s award-winning HENRY (Health, Exercise and Nutrition for the Really Young) model, a unique, highly successful and evidence-based intervention program
Today, JDC has adapted HENRY into “Healthy Parenting,” translating it into Hebrew and Arabic and piloting it in nine cities and towns. Four are Israeli-Jewish, three are Israeli-Arab, and two are mixed Jewish and Arab – including Jerusalem.
The aim is straightforward: to enable parents to sharpen parenting skills and choose healthier lifestyles for their babies, young children and themselves. Taking a holistic approach, the program recognizes that parents’ emotional well-being and confident, responsive parenting are just as important for a healthy lifestyle as nutrition and activity.
“It is a privilege to develop a program that helps professionals actually support parents to make changes towards leading a healthy lifestyle,” said Ronnie Hasson, the program’s national director. “Through the professional guidance parents receive, they develop parenting abilities and improve their skills to create a healthy, physical and emotional environment for their children. The program promotes healthy living for the families, the communities and the professionals.”
The program follows three steps in each pilot location. First, JDC engages community professionals who work directly with the early childhood demographic – like public health nurses, social workers, daycare teachers, psychologists, dieticians and paramedical professionals. “Healthy Parenting” runs an intensive two-day Core Training that provides them with tools to partner with parents and practical listening skills.
Next, there’s an advanced two-day Group Facilitator Training for people wishing to become parent group facilitators in their communities.
Finally, two trained parent group facilitators work together to lead eight-week Healthy Families groups, where each parent tailors the material to his or her family’s own needs. Each session consists of innovative and interactive lessons to engage the parents, providing them with effective parenting skills and information about healthy food and an active lifestyle.
The program helps families change old habits, make new healthier lifestyle choices and achieve their family goals.
“The program gave me the strength to know where I wanted to be and the strength to make changes in my life and with my son — changes like weaning him from formula and his bottle, not eating in bed and moving him from a crib to a bed. The group facilitators helped me make those changes in steps and positively,” said Tamar Chana, a physical education teacher and “Healthy Parenting” participant in Safed. “The facilitators deliver the materials in creative and interesting ways. They are very warm, and this is very important for the content to be properly received.”
“Healthy Parenting” is coordinated by JDC, with the generous support of the Barbara Kay and Family Foundation. It is a partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Health and with two national initiatives: 360 – the National Program for Children & Youth at Risk, and the National Program for Healthy and Active Living.