Alumna ‘Adds’ another project to her list of achievements

July 17, 2012

London, ON – Brescia University College alumna, Chwen Johnson, was awarded the Speaking of Food and Healthy Living award for the Central and Southern Ontario Region at the Dietitians of Canada national conference this May. This award was created in 1998 and is in recognition of collaborative efforts that help Canadians practise healthy eating and active living.

“Dietitians of Canada Central and Southern Ontario Region members are very proud of Chwen Johnson’s achievement as the regional winner of the Speaking of Food and Healthy Living Award. It is wonderful to see Chwen use her master’s thesis with community collaborations to develop this very successful program,” said Linda Dietrich, Regional Executive Director (Central & Southern Ontario) and Director & Regions Development.

Johnson developed “Healthy Eating Adds Up” in September 2010 as a fitness, nutrition, and food skills education program for adults with developmental disabilities. The program was created due to high demand and recommendations brought forward by developmental agency staff. The program’s focus is to help individuals living with developmental disabilities to develop lifelong healthy eating and active lifestyles. Trained program leaders facilitate the nutritional elements of the program. With the use of pictorial recipes and step-by-step instructional methods they educate participants on basic nutrition and cooking skills. The participants also meet twice per week for one hour to be led in cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility exercises.

While working on the early stages of her thesis in 2009, Johnson said she realized the potential that was possible with the program. “There was a huge need for something that combined both fitness and nutrition. There is really nothing out there that is ongoing like ‘Healthy Eating Adds Up’.” Johnson was a member of the first class to graduate in 2009 from the Master of Science in Foods and Nutrition (Thesis Stream) program at Brescia University College. Dr. June Matthews, associate professor and Johnson’s thesis advisor, played a vital role in the development of the program, and said that she is thrilled to see what Johnson has been able to accomplish from her thesis work“Chwen has worked hard to take our research findings to the next level and we plan toofferthis evidence-based program to more individuals with developmental disabilities. This award is a wonderful recognition of Chwen’s commitment to meet the nutritional needs of this high priority, but underserved,population.”

The program, while developed by Johnson, was funded by the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport.  A wide variety of organizations including Community Living Burlington, City of Burlington, Premier Fitness, Compass Point Bible Church, and Artemis Innovation, have all been involved with “Healthy Eating Adds Up”.  Johnson says that these groups played a large part in her completing her master’s thesis. “To be successful in a program, you have to be involved with various stakeholders, since they can connect you with the right resources. It is so important to work collaboratively with your community.”

Since the “Healthy Eating Adds Up” program was launched in September 2010, 77% of participants have increased their nutrition knowledge scores, and some have learned to cook healthy dinners at home.  The program has been implemented by four developmental services agencies in Ontario, totaling almost 600 participants, while three other agencies are moving forward with plans to implement in their areas.

Since completing her master’s thesis, Johnson has worked in a variety of industries, including fitness, education, long term care, and public health. She is currently a member of the Dietitians of Canada and Ontario Society for Nutrition Professionals in Public Health, and works for the City of Hamilton in Public Health Services as a Dietitian. Johnson also does consulting and is currently working on a pilot program for August looking at using video to teach how to eat healthfully.

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Brescia University College, Canada’s premier women’s university college, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,275 women registered as either full or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room at