Holistic Health Opportunities (H2O) Curriculum

H2O Curriculum – Making Holistic Health Opportunities as Accessible as Water

There is a lack of access to free, holistic fitness programs and nutrition classes in low income communities, especially to classes that are structured over an extended period of time to facilitate the formation of ongoing, lifelong healthy habits that reduce stress. According to a study in progress at Stanford University, “up to 30 percent of children who live in low-income, high crime neighborhoods show symptoms of PTSD.” More and more research is being done linking improved mental health to physical well-being. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry states “exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function…” and according to a 2013 article published in Bloomberg Business “a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School is leading a five-year study on how [yoga] affect[s] genes and brain activity in the chronically stressed. His latest work show[s] how so-called mind-body techniques can switch on and off some genes linked to stress and immune function.” Furthermore, the Sonima Foundation, an organization that teaches yoga in public schools, has reported a 71 percent decrease in PTSD symptoms and a 35 percent reduction in ADHD symptoms in their students. Yet despite evidence such as this, few programs exist that focus on creating healthy, lifelong habits through holistic (mind/body/soul connection) fitness practice. To help combat this problem, Freedom2Fit has created a standardized curriculum, H2O (Holistic Health Opportunities), geared toward teaching yoga, self esteem building, healthy eating, and self expression at homeless shelters, community centers and after school programs. Our H2O program goes far beyond basic physical education and aims to help build foundations, for those considered most “at-risk,” of lifelong, healthy physical practices that reduce stress and improve mental health.

Our goal with our H2O programming is two fold: both to offer a year-long “collaborative community development” program designed to reduce chronic stress by focusing on whole-person (body and mind) wellness, and to support local businesses, stimulating economic growth. The H2O health curriculum will be offered as a supplemental package to current public-school health, physical education, and after school programs as well as to colleges and corporate offices with programs for both young adult and continuing education. The H20 program package will be broken into five units. The first four units (named for the four major sports seasons) will last a total of 12 weeks per unit: Unit 1 – NFL2FIT (Nutrition, Fitness, Listening & Learning); Unit 2- MLB2FIT (Meditation, Loving Relationships, Body, & Behavior); Unit 3 – NHL2FIT (Neighborhood Diversity, & Health Check-Ins, Life Lessons); Unit 4 – (W)NBA2FIT (Wellness Navigation in the Community, Business Education, & Advocacy Activities). The fifth unit is called RAP party (Realizing and Accessing our Potential) and will encourage our students to continue to use the strategies that they’ve learned after the program is over.

Beyond providing free classes and materials for low income families, it is our hope to stimulate local economies by collaborating with local health and wellness businesses, social service agencies, and schools. One innovate aspect of this project is its “collaborative community development” design. Part of what we would use grant funding for is to create materials for our H20 curriculum. We are looking to generate a resource that is a cross between a traditional textbook and a community-specific, social-service resource guide. It is our hope to collaborate with existing organizations (both NPOs and for-profit wellness providers) that are focused on preventive health or social service to codevelop these materials. Rather than write an original textbook, we will draw on the expertise of existing NYS agencies to build a full holistic curriculum for our workshops.  As we move forward, we will work closely with our partnered agencies as well as recruited youth leadership to establish a steering committee. We intend to spend year one of the grant on curation, collaboration, and research; year two on design and co-writing; and year three on piloting and implementation. We believe that this programming, produced under this model, is sustainable and will offer at-risk youth access to ongoing health and wellness education that will build healthy habits and promote well-being in the long term.






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