WKU students tackle childhood obesity

Mary Anne Andrews

For five WKU students, serving the community coincides with a national competition and a capstone project.

Jane Wood, Caitlin Pike, Stephanie Romano, Mario Nguyen and Michelle Child spent February promoting a public relations campaign called “Make your Move. Choose your Food.”

These students from the Journalism 454 and 456 capstone course were one of six teams from WKU entered in the PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition. The contest was open to all members of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

Judging for this competition will begin April 21, according to their website, with the finalists attending a ceremony in Minneapolis, Minn., to present their case studies. The grand prize is a trophy and a $2500 scholarship.

The campaign consisted of a series of events to raise awareness about childhood obesity among Bowling Green youth. These events were aimed at ages 7 to 16, with specific tactics to target the different ages.

One event was the Boy Scouts Personal Fitness Merit Badge Workshop, which gave local boy scouts the opportunity to start earning a fitness badge. Five boys who attended the workshop in Downing University Center on Feb. 25 began a 12-week process to earn the badge.

After the workshop, the scouts had to fulfill requirements in healthy eating and exercise, and they had to track both.

During the first section of the event, Diane Sprowl, community health improvement branch director for the Barren River Health Department, gave a presentation on healthy snacks and healthy sugar levels and conducted a label guessing game.

In the second section, the PR students helped the scouts do pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups and flexibility tests. They learned how to measure themselves and how to find their body mass index.

“All of them are really smart,” Child said of the scouts. “They all know more than I expected, but some of them are surprised about the sugary drinks like Mountain Dew.”

The PR students passed out nectarines as they explained the importance of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

“We all know that obesity is an epidemic that hits close to home,” Child said. “Our goal with ‘Make Your Move.

Choose Your Food’ is to reach out to the youth of our community and empower them with knowledge on healthy living so that they can make their own decisions with diet and exercise.”

The case studies are based on a series of surveys. Vikki Bagwell is the teacher and advisor for the project. She said the surveys are a vital part of the competition because they show students how public relations affects perceptions in the real world. She said targeted groups are given a survey to weigh opinions and awareness about issues. Then after the event, they fill out a similar survey to see what changes occurred during the event.

“PRSSA is the premier pre-professional organization for public relations practitioners,” Child said. “The competition gives students an opportunity to use classroom lessons in a real world setting.”

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, according to the 2012 Bateman project brief. This is why the PRSSA chose this issue — to help communities and to train students on the job.

“WKU plays a huge role in the Bowling Green community,” Child said. “Our campaign is an outstanding example of positive community outreach.”