Newswise — For 10 years, Cedars-Sinai’s Healthy Habits program has been bringing nutrition and fitness education to 16 Los Angeles elementary schools in low income neighborhoods as a way to fight obesity and related health risks.
Today, the program’s report card is in, showing that Healthy Habits is making a positive difference in student health. A months-long independent program evaluation surveyed parents of 700 second graders who went through the Healthy Habits course. Results showed:• 72 percent are now drinking low- or nonfat milk• 67 percent are eating more whole grains• 72 percent are eating more vegetables• 82 percent are eating more fruits• 68 percent are exercising more.
The 10-week Healthy Habits course is taught to second, third and fourth graders, who learn the importance of good nutrition and physical activity through fun exercises like playing games to identify the different food groups, drawing pictures of “the healthy plate”, learning about sugar amounts in different drinks and exercising. Cedars-Sinai was motivated to begin the program in 2004 because nationwide, one in three children is obese or overweight. In Latino and African-American communities, the ratio is even higher, affecting 50 percent of the children. In the communities served by Cedars-Sinai, more than one-fourth of the children are obese and only one-third are physically active.
"Beyond our Healthy Habits lessons, we want to support teachers and do what we can to promote activities such as this that allow children to practice healthy eating habits in a fun and festive atmosphere," said Carolyn Buenaflor, MPH, associate director of the program.
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