Minnesota Hospital Association


February 24, 2014

Hennepin County Medical Center's Taking Steps Together: Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle Program makes exercise fun and food delicious

Hennepin County Medical Center’s (HCMC) Pediatric and Nutrition Departments continue their five year commitment to patient and family centered care through Taking Steps Together (TST): Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle Program. Over the past five years TST has served over 450 HCMC patients and family members. TST offers community-based, culturally appropriate, bilingual programming.

Each week families cook, eat, play and learn together; they work together to develop strategies for healthful decisions at home. TST is evidence based, rigorously analyzed and has demonstrated positive results for participants. Everything about TST is patient centered; from the program’s location at neighborhood community centers, to the recipes, languages and activities that are selected. Participants drive the learning at TST. They develop their own guidelines for class participation, and throughout the course they are empowered to utilize their own experiences and cultural knowledge to establish individualized solutions for better health for their families and communities. Along the way, TST staff maintains an environment where physical activities are fun and healthy food is delicious – a core philosophy of the program.

After graduating from TST, participants want to continue to gather together, to build upon the accomplishments they have made during the TST course. Through the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Food Healthy Lives Institute, TST graduates and program staff received a grant for just under $50,000 to pilot “Next Steps: a community-led solution to sustaining healthy behaviors in families addressing childhood obesity.” With this initiative, TST graduates and community leaders have developed a variety of parent-led health maintenance groups engaging in activities ranging from gardening to cooking and sharing recipes. Together, they continue to move their communities toward better health.

TST operates on an $115,000 budget, with support generous support from the United Way, the University of Minnesota, Hennepin Health Foundation and various donors. The program also benefits from a committed team of staff and volunteers: Medical Director and Pediatrician Dr. John Anderson; Registered Dieticians Laurie Hanson and Patricia Barland; Program Director Rachel Newby; and more than 20 volunteers ranging from TST graduate families, undergraduate pre-med, nutrition and public health students to community members with their Master’s degrees in Public Health, pediatricians and nurse practitioners.