This guide is based on the Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better pilot program, conducted in Boston by several partners. Over the years, many women have told WIN they would like to start a Sisters Together program, but they lacked the resources to do all the activities described in the guide. Activities like planning a community event may be too much for a program that is just starting out.
Here are some tips for starting small:
- Feel free to adapt the activities and resources in the guide to meet your needs.
- Make your program as big or small as you want. You can start with just a friend or two, a couple of interested people from your place of worship, fellow stylists, coworkers, or others in your neighborhood.
- Start small by forming a walking group with friends and getting together to share or swap healthy recipes.
- Check out the items in the Program Resources section under Resources at the top of this page.
Step 1: Getting Started
Learn about your community. Who do you want to reach?
Tailor your program based on your local needs. For example, you may find that mature black women in your neighborhood would benefit the most from a Sisters Together program. This program is flexible enough to target black women or other groups of all ages, races, and communities. In fact, there are Sisters Together programs that include men. Let your community's needs drive how you shape your program.
Gathering Background Information
Research shows that not having access to healthy foods and places to exercise may be linked with other financial, health, and social issues. When you develop your program's messages and events, think about how the community as a whole may affect peoples' attitudes and choices related to health. Then, decide on the area(s) of greatest need. These questions may help you:
Know Your Community
- What are the attitudes, beliefs, and overall knowledge of black women in your area about healthy eating and physical activity?
- What do black women where you live already know about overweight and obesity and how being overweight or obese increases the chances of getting diabetes and heart disease?
- What types of health services and resources exist in your area?
- What types of activities are popular among black women where you live (for example, bike riding, jumping rope, walking)?
- Where can black women find healthy foods nearby?
- Who do people look up to in your area?
Learn more about the people you would like to help. Gather information on age, gender, income level, race, ethnic background, language, religion, education, what kinds of food they eat, family size, and what people do for fun. You can collect this information informally by talking to local leaders and residents about themselves and their neighbors. For more formal information, you can go to the website of the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov
Get Community Input
You can get input from local people about their
Sharing healthy eating tips
Here are some ideas for resources that will help kick off sessions focused on healthy eating:
- Contact the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) of your county to see if it has outreach staff who can conduct a free session on healthy eating.
- Visit the "Food and Nutrition" section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website for tips on a number of topics related to healthy food, meal planning, and shopping. See http://www.usda.gov and http://www.nutrition.gov
attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge related to physical activity and healthy eating in a number of ways. You can chat with people in person, by phone, or by email, mail, or text message. You can also host low-key meetings in your home, workplace, place of worship, local salons, and other nearby locations. Another way to learn more about people in your area is to attend meetings of other neighborhood groups.
Assessing Your Community's Needs
When designing a Sisters Together program, ask yourself these questions: Does your community already have programs for healthy eating and physical activity in place? What type of program would be most appealing to local women? For example, would a program be most effective if based in a community center, neighborhood group, or place of worship? Deciding what resources are on hand and setting your program goals will help shape your plan.
Local leaders can be a helpful resource for learning more about your community. Find leaders who are trusted and well respected. Ask for their input on the best ways to reach your audience. In addition, local leaders may be able to help spread the word about your program and help you locate extra resources. Black business owners, health care providers, and religious leaders may also provide helpful feedback.
Focusing Your Efforts
Once you have a clear grasp of your community's needs, you can begin focusing your efforts. You can use the information, community input, and local leaders' feedback to figure out the best place to hold your program. For example, you may decide to base your program in a community center, place of worship, or other neighborhood location.
A community center can be a great resource when starting a Sisters Together program. Programs work best at community centers when the need for information in the community is great and when the effort will most likely draw a steady following. Recreation centers, such as the YWCA or the YMCA, will often lend you their space for group meetings or exercise classes.
Find out about local groups and public programs that offer food assistance and education on healthy eating. Some of these programs are the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC), Head Start, and the Food Stamp Program. Check out local health centers, places of worship, social services, and sororities to learn about what they offer. These groups may serve as valuable resources when you start your program.
Places of Worship
Working with places of worship can be a good way to increase health awareness among blacks, since many religions have a longtime tradition of supporting community service. Before beginning the program, talk with the religious leaders to gain their support and establish credibility, open contact, and trust.
Ask for a meeting to hand out information to members, become active in events, or volunteer in programs hosted by the place of worship. You may be able to contact the director of the place of worship for ways to work together, such as being active in health fairs or using space for meetings at the site.
Is there a need for a Sisters Together
program where you live? If so, you may fin
A health fair or expo is a great way to begin spreading your message. As an early activity, one Sisters Together program held a health fair with people cooking healthy foods; line dancing; and offering exercise sessions, massage, and tai chi. The program has also included a walking group, recipe-testing events, and participation in community events with other organizations.
d that starting a program in your area may be the best option for you. These types of small, local programs can be more personal and usually do not need many resources to start up. Here are some ideas:
- Find out if there is a local school with a track that you could use for walking groups and other exercise events.
- Check out local shopping malls that may be good places for indoor walking, especially in bad weather.
- See if there is a local museum nearby with free or reduced admission. If so, get a schedule of exhibits or tours so you can plan a walking trip. Many museums now offer "hands-on" areas that make it easy to bring children along.
- Try holding your Sisters Together meetings and/or events in places like beauty salons, dance studios, day care centers, gyms, health centers, laundromats, markets, parks, playgrounds, and restaurants.
- Take turns with members in your group hosting Sisters Together events in your homes