EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan residents and communities face critical problems that affect their quality of life, challenge government and household budgets, and put Michigan’s recovery at risk. Rising levels of obesity, low achievement in science literacy, threats to water quality, children underprepared for school, and cities and townships facing bankruptcy are issues that threaten Michigan’s efforts to move forward. All relate to the areas identified on Gov. Snyder’s Michigan dashboard as priority areas to address if Michigan is to succeed.
To help win these battles, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is encouraging all Michigan residents to understand how Michigan can move forward and how personal engagement can make a difference throughout the state. The “I Know MI Numbers” (pronounced: “I know my numbers”) initiative is intended to inspire Michigan residents to actively engage in understanding what “numbers” translate into healthier living, a cleaner environment, educational achievement, good local government, and ultimately, a prosperous Michigan.
“The key to making dramatic changes in critical issues such as obesity, literacy and water quality is understanding how to measure success,” said Thomas Coon, director of MSU Extension. “We’re encouraging people to learn where they stand and how to move forward through an initiative we’re calling ‘I Know MI Numbers.’”
Coon says knowing optimal Body Mass Index (BMI), for example, is a first step toward achieving a healthy weight. Knowing what your BMI “number” is and how to reach it is a great start to a healthier lifestyle.
“MSU Extension exists to help people improve their lives. We do that by sharing leading-edge knowledge from Michigan State University researchers directly with people in Michigan’s cities, towns and counties,” said Coon. “By focusing resources on five key areas in an intense effort, we want to see a difference in this fight for better health, better youth development, stronger local government and better water quality.”
MSU Extension is launching five targeted programs to be executed over the next six to nine months that take aim at these specific, chronic challenges. The five programs constitute the “I Know MI Numbers” effort. They reflect critical elements of an improved Michigan and mirror indicators used by the Michigan dashboard. They include:
Reducing Adult Obesity
In Genesee and Saginaw counties, 34 percent of the adult population is considered obese – the highest in the state. This MSU Extension program aims to reduce individual’s BMI through education, activities and peer support. Working with faith-based organizations, worksites and through its existing programming, MSU Extension will lead nutrition education classes with an increased emphasis on obesity reduction. The goal is to reach 8,000 people before the end of the year.
Improving Science Literacy
Science literacy for school-aged youth in Michigan is below the national average. MSU Extension aims to impact this rating by supporting teachers across Michigan with resources, experiments and lesson plans around three science focus areas: biology (animal and veterinary sciences), plant sciences and environmental sciences (including bioenergy). MSU Extension will provide resource packets, aligned with Michigan Science Education Standards by grade, to teachers along with training in how to incorporate the resources into their classroom lessons. After-school and community-based programs such as 4-H Science Blast and National 4-H Youth Science Day events will be held across the state in the coming months. Combined, these efforts are designed to help improve student science scores in schools and connect classroom learning with real world experiences.
Increasing Early Childhood Literacy
More than a third of children enter kindergarten without the pre-reading skills needed to benefit from the instruction they receive. MSU Extension is partnering with the Molina Foundation to distribute 50,000 books across the state to help improve early childhood literacy. The books will be bundled with other learning resources that will give parents and caregivers the tools they need to better prepare Michigan’s youngest learners for a lifetime of greater literacy and greater success. Supporting literacy education in young children is how MSU Extension will help our youngest citizens to be reading at grade level by the third grade.
Protecting Michigan’s Waters
Michigan’s economic future and quality of life are dependent on clean and safe water resources. MSU Extension aims to improve overall water quality and engage multiple audiences who have an impact on our collective water resources in a single, comprehensive effort. MSU Extension staff members will collect measureable outcome data that directly correspond to improved water quality (improved environmental parameters; i.e. water quality). Follow-up evaluations with participants will document how change took place and its impact.
MSU Extension staff members will collect and report key outcome measures in gallons or pounds of nutrients, pesticides and sediments not used or not moving toward water supplies. The measures will then be modeled to reflect projected improvements in water quality.
Helping our Cities and Towns Succeed
Local governments and school districts in Michigan make up a $50 billion enterprise that provides basic public services such as police patrols, ambulance service, clean water, open space and parks and education. And in Michigan, this enterprise is increasingly under financial stress. Lower tax revenues, less state revenue sharing and a sluggish economy have put many Michigan counties, cities, villages and townships in serious financial stress threatening these basic public services. In responding to this crisis, the governor and Legislature are providing new tools for elected and appointed local officials.
MSU Extension educators, working with partners from the legal and financial sectors, are providing the educational foundation for local officials to use these new tools and address the fiscal crisis. Workshop topics will include the new emergency financial manager law, legal contracts, health care management, turnaround plans, local finance, local government cooperation and consolidation, school law and finance, and municipal bankruptcy. Participants will walk away with a set of tools and strategies for addressing and preventing the fiscal crisis facing many local governments and school districts today, resulting in improved civic management tomorrow.
“I Know MI Numbers” programs will start in communities at the end of April, with initial results being reported as early as fall 2011.
Find more information at msue.msu.edu.