June 14

Skills program participants in Altoona receive awards for improved health outcomes | News, Sports, Jobs


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My25 program participant Andy Dick shows off his certificate for healthy eating.

While many are concerned about gaining the “quarantine 15,” (a supposed 15-pound weight gain during the PA stay-at-home order), essential staff at Skills of Central PA are keeping nutrition health top of mind for people they support with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Combining holistic meal planning and personal choice, the successful My25 program, a nutrition planning tool for people with disabilities, has made significant shifts in health outcomes for those living in Skills’ community homes.

The program, which has been implemented since 2015, has shown promising results for health outcomes related to Body Mass Index (BMI), a standard metric related to weight which indicates risk of heart disease, diabetes and more.

According to a recent monthly report, all four residents of one particular Skills home were maintaining or moving toward a healthy BMI. These program participants received success certificates from My25 for their achievements in healthy eating.

“My25 has provided an excellent tool to help our residential homes to provide healthy, well balanced meals that promote overall wellness,” said Beth Shortsleeve, director of residential services in Blair County.

With My25, staff receive weekly recipe and meal plans including detailed instructions on how to cook each meal for those who may be unfamiliar with cooking.

Furthermore, meal plans are tailored to individual homes to match the dietary needs, restrictions, and personal preferences of each person living there.

Moreover, during the COVID-19 crisis, Skills staff have been discovering that nutrition planning is especially helpful as residents are asked to stay home more and to limit grocery shopping trips.

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“Thanks to My25 we know what the meals and the plate are supposed to look like in the event we can’t find all of the ingredients in the store,” said Julie McBreen, team leader at Skills of Central PA in Cambria County.

Data indicates that people with disabilities are some of the most susceptible to health challenges related to obesity.

One third of Americans meet BMI requirements of obesity, and these rates increase significantly in populations of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

There are a number of reasons for this disparity, including limited access to healthy foods, mobility challenges, and a lack of accessible environments in which to exercise.

However, as staff at Skills of Central PA have demonstrated, healthy eating can be a simple but crucial step in beginning to remedy these problems — even during a pandemic.

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