Archive for July, 2011

Rapides Foundation Provides Grant Opportunity for Central Louisiana

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Thanks to The Rapides Foundation, you can apply for up to $10,000 to help improve the health of youth in your community. One goal of this funding is to support efforts to develop proven and innovative programs designed to increase physical activities for both young and old. SPARK has worked with The Rapides Foundation and parishes in Louisiana to achieve this goal in the past, and there are new opportunities available to build on that success. Together we can create a healthy and active future for the children of Central Louisiana!

Deadline: Rolling

SPARK is proud to have partnered with The Rapides Foundation and Parishes in Central Louisiana in the past. Since that time SPARK is proud to have introduced several new programs, including:

  • NEW 2011 Early Childhood Program
  • NEW 2011 Middle School Program
  • NEW Nutrition Education curriculum from Healthy Kids Challenge

Each new program features updated content and innovative curriculum tools, as well as new training workshops and equipment packages. Visit to learn more!

Next Steps:

  1. Go to and download the application.
  2. Contact Bianca Wofford at SPARK. She’ll ask you a few questions, learn about your current program, and listen to your vision for improving the youth physical activity and wellness programs at your site. Together, you’ll come up with a plan that will WORK AND LAST.
  3. Send in your submission and wait to hear the good news!

Questions? Contact Bianca Wofford | (800) 772-7573 ext. 2243 |

New Funding for State Health Departments to Support Chronic Disease Prevention

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

“Prevention and Public Health Fund Coordinated Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Program”

Deadline: July 22, 2011

Funding Amount: $300,000 – $2.4M

  • Anticipated Awards: 53 (non-competitive)
  • Project Period: 3 years
  • Approx. Current Fiscal Year Funding: $ 39 mil
  • Approx. Total Project Period Funding: $ 129 mil
  • Funder: Affordable Care Act through the Prevention and Public Health Fund

Eligibility: State health departments, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands or their Bona Fide Agents. Grantees currently funded under FOAs DP09-901 are eligible to apply. P09-901 funds 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands (i.e. the same agency that is funded under P09-901 must be the lead applicant)

Purpose: Create or update state chronic disease plans that incorporate coordinated approaches to program planning, implementation, and evaluation to achieve measurable outcomes for the top five leading chronic disease causes of death and disability (e.g. heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis) and their associated risk factors.

For more information and to apply for this grant visit:

Some helpful FAQ:

Question: How is the Coordinated Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Program different from the Community Transformation Grants (CTGs)?

Answer: The Coordinated Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Program is different from the Community Transformation Grant Program. The CCDP&HP Grant Program will support development or enhancement of State Health Department leadership, coordination, expertise and direction across targeted disease programs in a state or territories’ chronic disease portfolio.

In contrast, the CTG initiative is focused on supporting the implementation, evaluation, and dissemination of evidence-based community preventive health activities to reduce chronic disease rates, prevent the development of secondary conditions, address health disparities, and develop a stronger evidence base for effective prevention programming.

Question. Does the Prevention and Public Health Fund Coordinated Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Program replace the funding for categorically funded chronic disease programs, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and nutrition, physical activity, and obesity?

Answer. The CCDP&HP grant program does NOT replace the funding for categorical chronic disease programs. This is NEW money for state health departments to use to strengthen existing chronic disease capacity, specifically in cross-cutting areas like surveillance, epidemiology, evaluation, policy, communications, health systems work, and community partnerships/mobilization – areas that all or many of the categorical programs depend on and may each have developed to some degree on their own (e.g., a CVD epidemiologist, obesity epidemiologist, etc). It is expected that the chronic disease program will be able to improve efficiency and effectiveness of categorical programs by strengthening these cross-cutting areas

Question: Rumor has it that this current FOA/supplement to all 50 states is replacing the funding for the individual programs (ie, no more individual programs nor funds for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis). Is this the case?

Answer: The CCDP&HP grant program does NOT replace the funding for categorical chronic disease programs. This is NEW money for state health departments to use to strengthen existing chronic disease capacity…

Can the Right PE Equipment Affect Educational Outcomes?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011


It is believed the SPARK team was among the first researchers and educators to scientifically examine the effects of content-matched equipment on elementary physical education outcomes.  The original Project SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) experimented with equipment items of varying sizes, shapes, weights and textures to determine if they could foster greater inclusion, activity, and enjoyment during PE and PA classes.  Their analysis continued with Middle School (Project’s M-SPAN – Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition; and TAAG – Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls), Early Childhood (Power Play), After School (BOLT – Building Opportunities for Leisure Time), and High School (POPI – Pittsburgh Obesity Prevention Initiative) PE and PA opportunities and spanned from 1989 to present day.

Equipment was found to be a critical component of a quality physical education program, not only because tools needed to be provided in sufficient number so students could participate, but also because equipment can be used to differentiate instruction, increase the levels of students participating and their enjoyment of PE and PA, and build an individual’s self-confidence and self-efficacy.  For example, many people recall the fear of having to forearm pass a regulation volleyball when returning a serve.  The anticipated pain of the heavy and hard ball made a lot of students wish they were somewhere else; and others flinch and use incorrect form.  Substituting a larger, softer, and lighter ball means pain free practice, and increases students’ chances for successful passing.  Teaching a lesson where students can access different size, shape, weight and texture manipulatives also promotes inclusion (some students will have success passing a smaller ball to their partner while others are ready for the challenge of a larger one).  When students can experiment with a variety of objects (e.g., a throwing lesson using many different types of balls) they enjoy a richer and more stimulating physical education experience.

The SPARK staff are expert at recommending age-appropriate equipment for their different programs.  Additionally, they understand how equipment can be used to achieve other non-health related outcomes such as teamwork (culture building and collaboration), retention (when students enjoy PE more they participate at higher levels and want to be in school), and academic achievement (SPARK is the only PE program to ever show that students can spend more time in SPARK PE and less in the classroom and do as well or better on standardized test scores – Research Quarterly June 1999).

Click Here to learn more about SPARK Physical Education equipment sets.

Additionally, SPARK experts are available via 800-SPARK-PE (800-772-7573) and email to respond to any and all concerns regarding equipment and how it can be used to align with learning standards and foster greater student achievement.

Need funding for equipment? Check out the SPARK Grant Finder tool.

The Importance of Early Childhood Activity

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

IMG_7206Early childhood education focuses on children’s development during ages three to five. While this developmental period should ideally focus equally on mental and physical development, in recent decades an emphasis has been placed on mental development, creating a concurrent de-emphasis on physical development. However, the two actually go hand-in-hand and should not be considered two separate entities during early childhood development and education.

Integrating physical activity into young children’s lives is essential for creating a foundation of movement and activity that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives. Physically active children learn habits in early childhood that greatly increase their chances of remaining physically active through their young adult and teenage years and into adulthood.

Benefits of Movement-Based Learning

There are many reasons that promoting structured physical activity in children will benefit them throughout childhood and into adulthood. These reasons range far beyond physical development, to social, emotional, and mental development. Young children are naturally active and will move, run, kick, throw, and play on their own in nearly any environment. However, children today are faced with a variety of challenges that reduce their natural aptitude toward movement and physical activity, including:

  • Entering daycare at a young age, where they may or may not place an emphasis on movement and physical activity.
  • Increased use of technology as a form of sedentary activity, leaving less time for movement-based activities.
  • Classrooms that focus on mental activity rather than physical activity, starting as early as pre-school, in order to prepare students to meet curriculum requirements and standardized test score levels later in their education.
  • Single-parent homes or parents who both work outside the home, leaving them little time to devote to regular daily activity and movement with their kids.

If your children attend daycare or pre-school, try to choose a school with an early childhood education program that integrates movement and physical activity with cognitive learning and places an emphasis on learning and exploration through movement.

There are a vast number of benefits for children who experience increased movement and physical activity in early childhood. In addition to creating healthy habits and fostering a lifelong commitment to physical activity, children whose early childhood education is based in movement enjoy the following benefits in both early childhood and for the rest of their lives:

  • Better social and motor skill development
  • Increased school readiness skills
  • Building developing muscles, bones, and joints faster
  • Reducing fat and lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing depression and anxiety
  • Increased learning capacity
  • Developing healthier social, cognitive, and emotional skills
  • Building strength, self-confidence, concentration, and coordination from an early age

Further, active children have fewer chronic health problems, are sick less frequently, miss less school, and have a significantly reduced risk for a number of childhood and adult diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and mental illness.

Adopting a Movement-Based Curriculum

Since cognitive learning and physical activity go hand-in-hand and reinforce one another in early childhood development, it is essential for daycares and preschools to adopt a curriculum that emphasizes both and uses movement to promote and teach cognitive development. Since young children don’t like to sit still for long periods and respond better to activities that change frequently, early childhood education can really benefit and use time more efficiently from using a movement-based program to teach cognitive skills.

Children have many opportunities to learn through movement. One area that young children respond particularly well to is using music and rhythm to teach other developmental skills. Listening to the different rhythms of music and asking children to respond to what they hear through movement can integrate music education, physical education, and cognitive development into a single lesson plan. Allowing the children to create the music themselves can take this activity one step further.

If programs such as these are started early in life, older children will respond better to similar, more advanced lesson plans. Schools suffering from a lack of time for music, PE, and recess in their overall curriculum could possibly benefit the most from combining these so-called “elective” classes and integrating movement into the lessons of the traditional classroom.

Movement-based learning programs require proper preparation and staff training, particularly since physical activity has become de-emphasized in formal training programs. Educators need to focus equally on four components: curriculum, hands-on training, equipment, and follow-up support. Continuing education in movement-based early childhood education is essential for the adults responsible for teaching and instilling these lifelong principles in children.

Healthy People 2020 RFP: New Funding Available to Non-Profits

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

New Funding Available to Non-Profits Working to Promote Improved Health at a Community Level!

Healthy People 2020 Community Innovations Project Request for Proposal


The purpose of this RFP is to solicit community-level projects that use Healthy People 2020 overarching goals, topic areas and objectives to promote improved heath at a community level. Funding is intended to support activities above and beyond general operations. Using the projects funded through this RFP, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) intends to evaluate how the Healthy People 2020 overarching goals, topic areas and objectives are being used to improve the health of communities.

In order to be eligible for consideration, proposed projects must address at least one of the Healthy People 2020 topics and incorporate at least one of the following priorities that are linked to the Healthy People 2020 overarching goals.

Funding Information

  • This is a one-time funding opportunity.
  • Awards will range from $5,000 to $10,000.
  • Up to 170 projects will be funded.
  • Awardees will be chosen to represent a variety of themes, activities and regions.

Eligibility: Non-profit, community-based organizations with budgets less than $750,000

Deadline: August 5, 2011

Notification: November 11, 2011

Project Timeline: December 1, 2011 – May 31, 2012

Click Here for more information.

Click Here for the RFP.

Awards and Rewards for a Lifetime of Achievement

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011


On May 10, 2011, I met a Super Bowl MVP and an Olympic gold medalist–in the same day.  That was a first for me, and these were only some of the sports celebrities gathered in a spectacular chamber in a US Senate Office Building.  The occasion was even more special because I was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.  Most of the other awardees came to that moment mainly through sports.  One of the more interesting awardees brought Tae Kwon Do to the US and is in the Black Belt Hall of Fame.  Pretty cool.  Because I was a scrawny, poorly coordinated kid, I arrived by a different route, though I did enjoy all the hours I spent playing sports in my neighborhood.  My connection to sports and fitness is through health research.  Though physical activity research is often in the news, I admit to being jealous about the attention paid to genetically-superior athletes who perform incredible feats of endurance, strength, skill, and determination.  Think about all the media exposure for sports each week.  The irony is that appreciation of sports performance inspires a lot more sitting and watching than active emulation.  Part of the job of physical activity promoters is to get sports fans (and everyone else) off the bleachers and the sofa and out onto the field, the road, the court, and the trail.  I’m glad the President’s Council is bringing the sparkle of sports celebrities to the goal of getting Americans more active.

SPARK had a lot to do with me getting this award.  There are many physical activity researchers who have published papers and been vocal advocates for active living.  However, few of us have been fortunate enough to see our research lead directly to improving the lives of millions.  Over the years, SPARK has certainly provided millions of young people with enjoyable, skill-building physical activity.  This is possible because of the thousands of teachers and recreation leaders SPARK has trained–and trained well.  I assure you that the fantastic accomplishments of SPARK are reward enough.  It’s very nice to get an award, but important to recognize that SPARK’s success, as well as the contributions of many research collaborators, made the award possible.  Even better than the award is seeing that SPARK just keeps getting better.  More programs.  More partners.  More research and evaluation.  Smart use of technology to support teachers.  More activity for more people.  There are more rewards coming for SPARK.  Which awards can we nominate SPARK for?

Jim Sallis