Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Beverly Henry
Beverly Henry


Nutrition professor lends hand,
students to healthy Elgin effort

June 17, 2008

by Mark McGowan

NIU professor Beverly Henry is helping to make her hometown of Elgin a healthier place to live.

Henry, who teaches nutrition and dietetics in the School of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences, represents NIU on the leadership team for Activate Elgin. The group is part of a YMCA effort called “Activate America: Pioneering Healthier Communities.”

She attended the third annual Pioneering Healthier Communities Learning Institute earlier this month in Rosemont to gain ideas and skills that will take Activate Elgin to the next level.

“Personally, it’s great to see my home community getting on the health bandwagon. The Rotary Club of Elgin just made a five-year commitment to Activate Elgin, and that’s big,” Henry said. “Also, I can watch my students get involved in program assessment and the health fair. It’s fun to give them that opportunity to practice in the real world.”

Students in Henry’s FCNS 429 course are assigned to work at a September health fair in Elgin open to the public. Students from her seminar on nutrition and dietetics meet with children at U-46’s Highland Elementary School to discuss good eating habits and to survey their diets.

Among the goals promoted to students and their families: eating breakfast more often, enjoying meals with their full families and engaging in physical activity during the school day.

The YMCA launched the PHC project in 2004 as a community leadership initiative to raise the visibility of lifestyle health issues in the national policy debate and to encourage and support local communities in developing effective strategies to promote healthy lifestyles.

So far, 46 communities including Elgin and Rockford have fielded teams to answer the call.

According to the YMCA, its teams are:

  • changing the environment of after-school programs implemented by the Y and other community organizations to include physical activity and healthy snacks
  • influencing policy makers to put physical education back in schools and include physical activity in after-school programs
  • building new (or enhancing existing) walkways and bike paths
  • providing opportunities for residents to purchase and consume fresh fruits and vegetables

The work is funded through an annual appropriation of $1.4 million from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.

Henry, whose school is housed in the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences, was recruited as a dietitian who also is an academician with research and evaluation skills. Others on the leadership team represent the City of Elgin, the Elgin Park District, the Elgin Public Library, the Kane County Health Department and two local hospitals.

They’re talking about walkways, bike paths, parks, farmer’s markets and more. Two events have been scheduled in conjunction with the Y, including “American on the Move Day” and a one-mile walk with Elgin’s mayor.

“We’re really trying to build on what we have,” Henry said, “and to make information available to families.”