Better Living in Southwest Detroit

This summer, here at Southwest Counseling Solutions, we had a group of 11participants – both parents and young children – partake in a special four-week health and fitness program made possible through our Active Living Detroit Mini-Grant (jointly sponsored by Healthy Environments Partnership and the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative).

One of the great aspects of our program is that every session includes both adult/parent learning time and interactive parent-child learning time. The first hour is just for the parents, and we provide childcare for the children. This not only provides a break for our moms and dads, but it gives them a chance to learn in an uninterrupted environment.

During the second hour of class, the children join the parents to learn something hands-on together. As one mom commented, “I appreciated the structured physical activities that I could do with my kids. It gave me some ideas on how to keep them active, with things I could do with them on my own.”

Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Week one was about movement, and learning to move more through walking. All of our parents and children were given pedometers and instructed on how to use them. The parents also learned about pedestrian safety. The kids did walking contests, played on balance boards, and participated in other physical challenges. One of the moms said that the pedometers turned into a challenge with her children at home, to see who could walk more, and it made her conscious that she could be more active too.

Week two involved a lesson in nutrition and diabetes with a nurse who specializes in diabetes prevention and treatment. She talked with the parents about nutrition, health and diabetes management. One of the mothers in our group is pre-diabetic, so the topic was relevant to the group. I was amazed at how engaged the parents were, and much of the session was just spent with the parents asking the nurse questions. In the second half of class, the children and parents participated in an animal yoga class, trying different postures while being physically active. We ended the session with the families making veggie pizzas together – and even the youngest of children participated in the food preparation.

During week three, we did a session on environmental factors that affect health, with a presentation from Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, a nonprofit that works with residents, community organizations, agencies, businesses and industry to improve environmental conditions in southwest Detroit. The representative talked to the parents about lead poisoning and asthma. During the second half of the session, parents and children made berry smoothies together.

Our program culminated at the end of August with a trip to Eastern Market for Tuesday market day. As a surprise, each adult was given $10 to purchase as much healthy produce as they could, and the families compared their bounties at the end of our trip. Even though we could not provide transportation, most of the families found their way to Eastern Market to meet up for this last session – illustrating their commitment to eating better to feel better, and using the lessons learned during our program to begin making lifestyle changes for themselves and their families.

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