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Wellmark Foundation grant helps public health experts monitor childhood obesity in Iowa schools

Grant, chosen from 150 requests, enlists school nurses to gather data, discuss issues with students and parents

February 15, 2011

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(Des Moines, Iowa) – The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) will use a two-year, $116,916 grant from the Wellmark Foundation to monitor body mass index (BMI) in Iowa schools. The project will be implemented through a parnterhsip with school nurses across the state.

Second phase of project targets middle, high school students
The School Health Partnership: Surveillance of Overweight/Obesity Among Iowa Youth will create a surveillance system to monoitor BMI among middle and high school students in Iowa. The first phase of the project, funded by a previous Wellmark Foundation grant, created the BMI surveillance system, with data from more than 2,500 Iowa elementary students.

The final phase will complete a sustainable, statewide BMI surveillance system in Iowa schools. Objectives include:

  • Gathering height and weight status of middle and high school students in order to effect health behavior changes
  • Establishing a training program for school nurses on motivational interviewing, a technique they will use to discuss BMI related issues with students and parents
  • Implementing communication strageiges that can be used to effect positive health behaior change in students

Grant one of only 17 competitively selected
The Wellmark Foundation is a non-profit foundation that seeks to improve the health of Iowans, South Dakotans, and their communities. Through its 2010 Healthy Communities Grant Program, the Foundation received nearly 150 grant requests. This grant award to the IDPH represents one of 17 competitively awarded to establish or expand health initiatives throughout Iowa and South Dakota.

Cumulatively, The Wellmark Foundation is proud to award $1,334,817 to these 17 grants to serve as catalyst funding for local health projects.

“Schools nurses play a pivotal role in preventing childhood obesity,” says Matt McGarvey, the Foundation’s director. “Creating a statewide database of BMI scores will help health care providers and policymakers target their efforts where they are most needed.”

About Iowa Department of Public Health
The Iowa Department of Public Health partners with local public health, policymakers, health care providers, business and many others to fulfill our mission of promoting and protecting the health of Iowans.

For more information on the Iowa Department of Public Health BMI measurement program, contact Cathrine J. Lillehoj, (515) 242-5913 / For more information regarding the Wellmark Foundation and its grant programs, visit



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