Cascade County Safe Kids Coalition


Safe Kids Cascade County, which is led by the Cascade County Health Department, provides a dedicated and caring staff with operation support and other resources to assist in achieving our common goal: keeping your kids safe. Based on the needs of the community, this coalition implements evidence-based programs, such as car-seat checkups, safety workshops, and sports clinics that help parents and caregivers prevent childhood injuries. Coalition members include representatives from the school district, health care, law enforcement, businesses, and other community agencies.

The Safe Kids Cascade County Coalition, part of Buckle Up Montana, works to prevent unintentional injury and death. Although observed safety belt use in Montana is just under 80%, if between 87% and 94% of Montanans used seatbelts, it is estimated that an additional 20-30 lives would be saved each year. That number increases to 75 additional lives if seatbelt use were 100%. Increased seatbelt use results in fewer injuries and deaths.

By law, in Montana all children up to 6 years old and up to 60 pounds have to use a car seat or booster seat. Larger children should also be in boosters until they are around 4 ft. 9 in. tall. The Safe Kids Coalition may have car seats and booster seats available for free or reduced cost.

Cascade County Statistics – 2013 

Total number of motor vehicle crashes- 2021cascade_county_trnsprnt

Total injuries-                                            445

Fatalities-                                                   10
Profile of the Week: Strong Women

Strong Women

The primary objective of the StrongWomen™ Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and  effective strength training programs for midlife and older women.

Women begin to show decline in muscle mass beginning at age 30 and if this condition is not reversed, women will have reduced strength and other severe consequences as they age. Women need to maintain a healthy level of muscle mass at all ages for optimal health through weight lifting two or more times per week,  but only 17.5% of women meet these recommendations. The Strong Women program, developed by Tufts University, is designed for women to increase muscle strength by strength training for 2-3 sessions per week for fourteen weeks. This strength training program is now being offered through MSU Extension offices in Montana, and the results have been inspiring.  Participation, improved functional strength and balance, and a strong sense of camaraderie and achievement are positive outcomes for Montana’s rural women. These trainings are conducted by Extension educators who have been certified to teach Strong Women programs.

About Strong Women:
The StrongWomen™  program is an evidence-based strength training program developed by the staff of  the Hancock Center at the Friedman School at Tufts University. The primary objective of the StrongWomen™ Program is to help communities nationwide to implement safe and  effective strength training programs for midlife and older women.

Who should attend trainings:
* Professional and community leaders who are working with a non-profit and are interested in the fields of public health, nutrition and exercise or wellness should attend.

* Potential program leaders should be regularly lifting weights/strength training, be in good physical health, and be able to collaborate with local agencies or organizations to provide the Strong Women program in their community.


For a list of all locations and contact information, click here

AFHK Montana

Montana Action for Healthy Kids

Montana AFHK is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of Montana’s children in schools and communities through nutrition and physical activity where children learn, participate in, and enjoy healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Montana Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK), a subcommittee of the national Action for Healthy Kids initiative, is a statewide coalition dedicated to improving the health and wellness of Montana’s children in schools and communities through nutrition and physical activity where children learn, participate in, and enjoy healthy lifestyle behaviors.  The goal of Montana AFHK is to provide simple, positive, consistent messages about nutrition and physical activity, while increasing physical activity opportunities for school aged children.  Creating parent-led projects at school and community levels and involving parents in creating healthier school and community environments for kids has led to increased support for healthy kids.  To share ideas and healthy lifestyle tips to parent and partner organization, Montana AFHK leads parent-focused presentations, develops and distributes educational materials, provides health training to teachers, and awards mini-grant programs to support nutrition and physical activity programs.  Montana AFHK also provides support to partner’s activities such as Big Sky Fit Kids.  In addition, Montana AFHK provides support to three local teams that have been created in Billings, Great Falls, and Helena to advocate for change at the local level.

For more information, please visit

or the national AFHK website at

MT CVD and Diabetes Prevention Program logo

Montana Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Prevention Program

Diverse Montana Communities Deliver Lifestyle Change Program to Prevent Diabetes

Since 2008, Montana communities have been helping prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease among adults at high risk through the Montana Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Prevention Program (CVDDPP).  The 10-month CVDDPP is based upon research evidence that intensive lifestyle change can prevent or delay the development of diabetes by 58% among adults at high risk.1

Lifestyle coaches educate and motivate participants to develop and maintain healthier eating and physical activity habits, which lead to weight loss and control.  These lifestyle coaches are registered dietitians, registered nurses, cardiac rehabilitation nurses, and exercise specialists trained to deliver the CVDDPP.

Eligibility criteria for the CVDDPP are based upon risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Adults aged 18 years and over with a Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥25 kg/m2, medical clearance from a doctor, a commitment to lifestyle change, and one of the following may participate:

  • History of pre-diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, or impaired fasting glucose
  • History of gestational diabetes or birth to a baby weighing >9 lbs
  • High blood pressure (≥130/85 mmHg or treatment)
  • Dyslipidemia (triglycerides >150 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol >130 mg/dL or treatment, or HDL cholesterol <40 mg/dL for men and <50 mg/dL for women)
  • A1C between 5.7% to 6.4%


In Montana, an estimated 185,000 adults over age 20 have pre-diabetes.3 The rate of diabetes reported by adult Montanans increased from 2.8% in 1990 to 7.0% in 2010.4  Based on these rates, it is estimated that nearly 70,000 adult Montanans have diagnosed diabetes.5  Over 8% of deaths in Montana are diabetes-related.6


Participating in the program is an effective way to slow these trends.  Over 2,000 Montanans have participated in the prevention program since it began in 2008.  Here are the average 10 month program results:

  • Weight loss of 15.4 lbs
  • Blood pressure reduction from 133/81 mmHg to 127/78 mmHg
  • LDL cholesterol reduction from 123 mg/dL to 119 mg/DL
  • HDL cholesterol increase from 49 mg/dL to 51 mg/dL
  • Fasting blood glucose reduction from 102 mg/dL to 97 mg/dL


Fourteen sites and four telehealth sites currently deliver the CVDDPP in communities designated8 as

  • Urban: Billings
  • Rural: Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls, Helena, Butte, Bozeman
  • Frontier: Libby, Choteau, Dillon, Baker, Colstrip, Ekalaka, Forsyth,  Miles City


Go to to contact the site near you, read news and journal articles, and learn more.  For more information, contact Diane Arave, the Montana Diabetes Project Quality Improvement Specialist in Prevention, at or (406) 444-0593.


References and Data Sources

1. Knowler WC, Barrett-Connor E, Fowler SE, Hamman RF, Lachin JM, Walker EA, Nathan DM; Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group: Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med 2002;346:393–402.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes fact sheet: national estimates and general information on diabetes and prediabetes in the United States, 2011. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011.

3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Diabetes Statistics, 2007 fact sheet. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, 2008.

4. Montana DPHHS, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

5. U.S. Census Bureau: State and County QuickFacts.

6. Montana DPHHS, Office of Vital Statistics.

7. Vanderwood KK, Hall TO, Harwell TS, Butcher MK, Helgerson SD. The Montana Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Prevention Workgroup. Implementing a state-based cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention program. Diab Care 2010;33:2543–2545.

City of Great Falls Wellness Program

The City-County Health Department in Great Falls mentors a variety of worksites in Great Falls in worksite wellness and cancer prevention programs.  Currently, the Great Falls Police Department, Public Works and Civic Center are participating in the program. The organization believes that health promotion in the workplace is an investment in their most important asset, their employees.  They have worked hard to create a wellness program that their employees value and are eager to participate in year after year.

To guide their program design and development the City of Great Falls Wellness Program utilized WELCOA’s Seven Benchmarks for Successful Wellness Programs: Capturing Leadership Support, Creating Cohesive Wellness Teams, Collecting Data to Drive Health Efforts, Crafting an Operating Plan, Choosing Appropriate Interventions, Creating a Supportive Environment and Consistently Evaluating Outcomes. Each of the worksites has access to wonderful incentive campaigns and  wellness webinars sponsored by WELCOA.

Over the past four years, the City of Great Falls Worksite Wellness Program has been very successful. Listed below are just a few their proudest accomplishments.

•Establishing cohesive wellness teams at each worksite

•Offering biometric screenings with insurance incentives

•Promoting walking breaks/buddy walking during work day hours

•Distributing walking maps developed by wellness team members to each worksite

•Cancer prevention awareness days

•Hosting “Lunch and Learns” and “Grab and Goes”

•Stocking all vending machines with healthy choices

•Promoting physical activity for those in jobs where exercise may be challenging

•Hosting Wellness Walks

•Including stretch breaks as part of meeting agendas

The City of Great Falls Wellness Program worksites will be highlighted in the upcoming CDC Action Guide for Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Screening for employees for their outstanding work in promoting cancer screening in the work place. Additionally, the Colon Cancer Alliance recognized two of the City of Great Falls Wellness Program sites for their promotion of Colon Cancer awareness in 2013.

The City of Great Falls hosts an annual health fair and this year’s fair will be sometime in September 2014.


For more information about the City of Great Falls Wellness Program, please contact Penny Paul at





Cascade County Wellness Program

wellness logo (2)

The mission of the Cascade County Wellness Program is to foster the health and well-being of their employees and their families.  The Wellness Committee is dedicated to providing programs, tools and incentives to help their employees improve their health and their families’ health.  The goals of the wellness program are:

•To keep low-risk participants at low-risk

•To engage medium and high-risk participants in healthy lifestyle changes

•To provide opportunities for their employees and their families to improve their health status

Cascade County will accomplish these goals by providing assessment, education, and physical activity opportunities to all employees. The Cascade County Wellness Program  has partnered with the City of Great Falls Wellness Program and the two participate in each other’s events. By partnering with the City of Great Falls program, employees have a multitude of wellness opportunities available to them. Each employee that participates in the Cascade County Wellness program receives an activity tracker booklet at the start of the year. This booklet makes it easy for employees to log their activity, track their progress towards their health goals, and motivates them to continue to make healthy choices.

The Cascade County Wellness Program’s annual health fair will be held on  May 26, 2014.


More information about their program can be found on their website or by emailing




Small Steps to Health and Wealth

Designed to motivate participants to improve both their health and their finances

Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ (SSHW) is a MSU Extension program designed to motivate participants to improve both their health and their finances.  The program was developed by faculty with Rutgers Cooperative Extension and has been adapted for Montanans by the MSU Extension faculty.  Since January 2008, Teton, Deer Lodge, Cascade, Blaine, Fergus, and Richland County have offered the class in their counties to over 100 people.  The program consists of three sessions featuring:  Discussions of similarities between health and personal finance issues, suggested behavior change strategies that can be applied to both areas of life, and the impact of health on finances and finances on health.  The program concludes with a discussion of key health and wealth success factors:  Attitude, automation, awareness, knowledge, control, environment, goals, and time.  Participants set health and wealth goals and take action to achieve their goals by identifying small progress steps.  Follow-up check lists at periodic intervals help participants track progress toward their health and wealth goals.

Montana’s SSHW program has received national publicity, and the main SSHW Website on the Rutgers University server recommends interested states follow the Montana SSHW template as a guide to developing a state-specific program.

Visit the national website at:

Note: MSU Extension does not currently offer Small Steps to Health and Wealth. A Revised version of the program may be available this fall. Updates to follow.

river city harvest 2

River City Harvest Community Gardens

Developing gardens throughout the Great Falls area to give individuals and families a place to grow their own as well as donate produce to local food charities

River City Harvest Community Gardens are working on developing gardens throughout the Great Falls area to give individuals and families a place to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as provide fresh produce to local food charities.

Community gardens give individuals and families a place, as well as the knowledge through education and mentoring, to grow their own food. They encourage everyone who doesn’t have ideal conditions at their home, or who doesn’t have the confidence to start a garden on their own, to join the gardens.  Growing their own veggies gives residents the ultimate control in their food choices.

River City Harvest worked closely with Wade Crouch, the agricultural officer at the Cascade County MSU Extension Office. He’s encouraged the Master Gardeners to help with the effort, and many have volunteered their time caring and harvesting the crops set aside in our food bank plots.

Ace Hardware has also been a tremendous support donating materials and labor to install a much-needed water line in one of the gardeners, and providing name plaques for all of the gardeners’ plots. The Ace Team is also planning on constructing a screened in gazebo for the gardeners and residents at our Park Place Health Care Center garden so the seniors, many of whom have to use a wheelchair, can enjoy the garden, as well.

An aspect of River City Harvest’s mission is to help groups start gardens, whether they’re directly involved, or not. In Spring 2010, River City Harvest broke ground for gardens at the University of Great Falls and the Salvation Army. UGF’s gardens were for their faculty and students during this first year, but they are offering plots to the public in 2011. The Salvation Army garden grew food specifically for their Family Services program. The volunteer Master Gardeners watered the garden with a single hose (hooked up at the bathroom sink), and harvested over 5000 lbs. of produce when all was said and done.

A big part of the success is the generous donations of property and water at our 2 gardens from Park Place Health Care Center and Electric City Conservatory. Both of them provide the land and water at no cost to RCH or the gardeners. Without their help, it would be a greater challenge to install a water system and pay the bills on a limited budget.

A diverse cross-section of the community takes part in the gardens. We have young and old individuals, as well as numerous families with small children who rent plots.

For more information, please visit:

pea pods logo

Pea Pods Neighborhood Garden

Pea Pods was born from an empty parking lot and diversified neighborhood that wanted to connect neighbors, build assets for the community, and provide awareness of the environment and its accessibility to provide healthy food to all in need. A collaboration of partners responded to the vision. Dedicated residents, schools, daycares, businesses, churches, and civic organization remain connected as we carry on with our mission. The garden is located on the corner of 9th Street and 3rd Avenue North in Great Falls.

Visit the Pea Pods Neighborhood Garden’s website at:

Pea Pods gardens focus on developing neighborhood pride and tearing down barriers of a diverse neighborhood. The project provides educational opportunities on gardening, nutrition and horticulture.  By gardening together, neighbors create and build a healthier neighborhood. The effort has had a direct, positive effect on helping eliminate poverty; weed out crime; foster healthy nutritional habits; and encourage residents to be good stewards of the land.  A strong sense of community comes from the first garden, for all stakeholders — funders, volunteers, food recipients, and growers.

The mission of Pea Pods is simple:

  • Develop accessible garden plots in neighborhoods.
  • Encourage residents to grow their own vegetables, flowers, and produce; providing healthy, economical, and fresh food choices for themselves and their families while beautifying the neighborhood.
  • Provide opportunities for residents, schools, and the community to learn gardening skills and nutritional information while also providing opportunities to volunteer, lead, and participate in the benefits of community gardening.
  • Assist in creating neighborhood pride by tearing down barriers in neighborhoods, cultivating relationships between neighbors, resident businesses and the community through the creation of a safe gardening environment that nurtures those relationships.
  • Through education, partnerships, and neighborhood involvement we seek to have a direct effect on eliminating poverty and crime, foster healthy nutritional habits and relationships, and teaching our community to become good stewards of our earth and encouraging the beautification of our neighborhoods.

Pea Pods thrives because of the dedication of its volunteers. Volunteers come from a variety of experience and all are necessary.   It takes all types to make a garden grow.  No experience necessary just an opportunity to tap into your passion to assist others to grow nutritional food and experience the holistic benefits from gardening.  Many volunteers are needed for both summer and winter seasons. The list of volunteer positions currently available follows:

  •  Education; Gardeners to help teach others to garden
  • Garden Set Up/Maintenance/Carpentry/Design Gardening/Planting/harvesting and yes, weeding

As noted above, neighborhood collaboration is a key element to the Pea Pod program. Older students build bins, Scouts build workbenches and garden benches, donors stop by to see the ongoing work, master gardeners teach newcomers how to get the best results, volunteers construct raised beds for ease of gardening for the elderly and younger students care for plants. Volunteer hours are tracked diligently; the only problem with counting volunteer hours is that they work in the garden all hours of the day and evening, so it is difficult to track each and every hour.

 *If you are interested in one of the volunteer positions listed above, contact Traci Hronek, Director of Pea Pods Neighborhood Community Garden. Her contact information is available at the bottom of this page.

Pea Pod organizers view their job as getting a garden going. That means finding organizers, rallying the neighborhood community, organizing a small team of residents to run the garden, training leader to oversee each garden and helping volunteers connect with the needed resources.

 Pea Pod recycles and reuses wooden crates that were used in the original garden. Pea Pod used the wood to create workbenches and other useful features. In the same vein, it used several concrete cylinder testing blocks for landscaping, keeping them from the community landfill.

 Perhaps one of the most charming “recycle” programs occurs when neighbors bring cuttings and seedlings they have nurtured throughout the winter and spring to the neighborhood garden as starter plants.

 Another example of recycling is the use of food waste from a soup kitchen and the school kitchens in the community. Since the food comes from certified food kitchens, it can be used directly in the compost heap, ultimately used to nourish the new crops. The program effectively reduces wasted food community wide, and puts it to good use.

The Pea Pods garden utilizes the container gardening and traditional gardening techniques and has hosted workshops through funding from Great Falls Weed and Seed to educate about community gardens, sustainable gardening, and more. Pea Pod’s goal is to help others create strong, sustainable community gardens in their neighborhoods. In the past several years, we’ve learned a great deal about starting a garden and some of those “lessons learned” can eventually be found on their website under the Gardens Toolkit tab:

Pea Pod Garden is exploring expansion into at least three other neighborhood gardens. The distinction “neighborhood gardens” is important, because it speaks to a vital difference between other local operations, including large collaborative gardens that draw from the entire community, small truck farms, and other commodity-producing projects in which area gardeners can participate. Neighborhood gardens serve a small geographical area, appeal to residents of that area and are more easily sustainable because the volunteers and donors have a vested interested in the neighborhood and want to see it thrive. The produce is important for many reasons, including increased awareness of nutrition and alleviation of stress on the budgets of those who struggle financially. However, the primary value of the gardens lies in cementing neighbors’ relationships with each other and building neighborhood unity. Carrying these ideas forward, the next three Pea Pod projects will occur at the Head Start campus, the Great Falls Rescue Mission and a vacant property lot which lies in an impoverished neighborhood also adjacent to the downtown area.

To find out more information about Pea Pods Gardens in Great Falls or to get involved, contact:

 Traci Hronek
Director, Pea Pods Neighborhood Community Garden