Economic Development, Health Care, and Higher Education

The Project tackles chronic disease prevention in children

Collegiate teams will present their findings before a panel of judges.

April 1, 2016
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A West Michigan-based project management competition returns for the fifth year with an eye toward preventing chronic diseases in children.

Collegiate teams of junior, senior and graduate-level students from eight academic institutions will gather April 11 at The Pinnacle Center, 3330 Highland Drive, Hudsonville, to participate in The Project 2016 competition, hosted by the Western Michigan Chapter of the Project Management Institute.

The event challenges student teams to identify a viable solution and present a project management business plan intended to prevent chronic disease and promote the health of Michigan children to a panel of judges.

A dozen teams comprised of 68 students representing Grand Valley State University, Michigan Technological University, Davenport University, Cornerstone University, Finlandia University, Ferris State University, Western Michigan University and Hillsdale College are expected to compete at this year’s event.

Kim Kalman, project director for WMPMI’s The Project, said this year’s event addresses chronic diseases in children, and the teams are charged with coming up with solutions to alleviate them.

“They have been gathering research data for Michigan and also breaking it down into various counties depending on where the college or university is located,” said Kalman.

Ben Todd, vice president of the education team and board member of WMPMI, said the scenario initially was introduced a couple of years ago and was one of three potential situations vetted for last year’s event.

“This year we came back and decided to go with it,” said Todd. “It is about the prevention and maintenance of chronic diseases, and I think it was obesity, asthma and diabetes that they highlighted.”

The State of Obesity, a project of the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, indicated Michigan experienced a decline in obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families between 2008 and 2011, which showed signs of progress.

As of 2011, the current obesity rate for 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families was 13.2 percent, and the rate for 10- to 17-year-olds was 14.8 percent in 2011. Nearly 13 percent of high school students across the state were considered obese in 2013, according to the report.

A statewide coalition known as Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan indicated obesity is not only associated with physical, psychosocial and economic consequences, but also can lead to eating disorders, sleep apnea, asthma, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

This year’s collegiate teams will participate in a series of preliminary rounds to present their projects. The final four teams will be selected based on the scores of the judging panel, as well as adherence to the fundamentals, guidelines and characteristics outlined in the industry’s guidebook known as the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK.

During the final round of presentations, which kicks off around 4 p.m., the teams will have 10 minutes to present their solutions and five minutes to respond to any of the panelists.

The panelists include: Jeanne Englehart, founder and owner of ETC Business Consulting; Lt. Col. Denny Gillem, radio host of “The Frontlines of Freedom”; Ken Theis, CEO of Dewpoint Consulting and chief information officer of Delta Dental; Craig Wieland, president of Wieland Davco; Krischa Winright, CIO at Priority Health and senior vice president of information services at Spectrum Health; and Carole Valade, editor and associate publisher at Gemini Publications.

Todd said the annual competition is a chance for students to be exposed to jobs in project management, as many are often unaware of the opportunities in the industry.

“We actually get the opportunity to introduce our students to the occupation of project management,” said Todd. “We also teach them some things they can apply — not only in the business world, but also life skills, like communication, team-building and things of that nature.”

The competition also provides a networking opportunity for students since a number of local business partners in the region will be present during the first part of the afternoon, according to Kalman.

“We have the reverse career fair, which is another feature for the students,” said Kalman. “This year we are anticipating 40 area businesses will participate in the event.”

The Project 2016 also features a dinner, keynote speaker address and an awards ceremony for the top performing teams. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Robert Jarve, who has served as the medical director for chronic disease management at Spectrum Health Medical Group. His address will focus on approaches to chronic disease management from a health system perspective.

This year’s event is sponsored by Spectrum Health, Initech Global, stellafly, CDH, Experis, Styker, Davenport University-IPEx, Steelcase, TEKsystems, BlueSky Resource Management LLC, Wieland Construction, Grand Rapids Business Journal, EEEE-4 Pillars of Success, BVW Photography, KFORCE, Benteler Automotive and Springboard.

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