FLINT, Michigan — The community-based reentry program MADE Institute
has partnered with Michigan State University (MSU) professor Rodlescia Sneed to address the state of health of formerly incarcerated individuals. As many as 5 million returning citizens, according to The Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the United States are on probation or parole.
Funded by a two-year $50,000 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the partnership puts into action a project titled, Harnessing Education and Lifestyle Change to Support Transitional Health (HEALTH) for Returning Citizens: A Pilot Study.
“Formerly incarcerated individuals — or returning citizens — face significant barriers in accessing healthcare and engaging in activities that promote health and wellness,” said Rodlescia Sneed, assistant professor in the Division of Public Health in Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. “Healthy eating and physical activity depend on numerous social determinants of health, including food access, adequate housing, community/social support, education, and income,” she added. “Returning citizens typically experience gaps in these areas.”
Formerly incarcerated citizens returning to the community face numerous hurdles and challenges related to health, employment, housing, and nutrition. As a result, they often experience disabilities and chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. However, disease prevention and self-management programs and opportunities are not a part of community reentry programs. In addition, the lack of nutritious foods, poor eating habits, and minimal physical exercise contributes to the high rate of obesity, diabetes, stroke, and more.
“Given the high disease burden and unique educational needs of returning citizens, this project fills an important gap in the support services currently offered to this population,” Sneed said. “This project will allow us to design and test physical activity and nutrition intervention specific to the needs of returning citizens that can eventually be evaluated for effectiveness in a large, randomized trial.”
The MSU researchers will address these gaps that currently exist in reentry programs. Through their pilot study, the research team will train formerly incarcerated adults to serve as group fitness instructors who can provide physical activity training to their peers.
The team will also develop a 16-week nutrition education curriculum. Researchers from MSU aim to address these and other issues in current reentry programs. Through their HEALTH pilot study, researchers plan to train formerly incarcerated adults to serve as group fitness instructors along with developing a 16-week nutrition education curriculum.
“Limited access to healthy foods is a major barrier for returning citizens,” Sneed said. “There are no full-service grocery chains in the city of Flint, and many in this population rely on local food pantries and food assistance benefits for nutrition. We will address these constraints by teaching returning citizens how to maximize food pantries and food assistance benefits for healthy eating. The program will also rely on visual recipes for non-readers, given the low literacy rates among formerly incarcerated individuals.”
“Through our partnership with the MADE Institute, we will design and test a physical activity and nutrition model that, if effective, could be broadly implemented within community reentry programs around the country.”
To learn more about MADE Institute and the HEALTH initiative, visit: madeinstitute.org