Early this year, the Long Island Community Foundation presented Deidra Parrish Williams, executive director of the NuHealth Foundation, a $50,000 grant to help support a childhood obesity initiative for middle school students in the Roosevelt Union Free School District.
The grant was awarded following a study conducted by NuHealth, in partnership with the school district, of 6th and 8th grade students in Roosevelt to assess body mass index and the prevalence of overweight and obese children. The results of the study, which was funded by the Foundation for Innovations in Medical Education, revealed that 44% of the students were overweight or obese, much higher than the national average.
David Okorn, executive director of the LI Community Foundation said, “We are very proud to support this initiative. It is a wonderful opportunity for the LI Community Foundation to help a community in need.”
“As a safety net health system, NuHealth has an obligation to care for our most at-risk communities and that means being responsive to their changing needs. We are grateful and proud to have the support of LI Community Foundation to help us confront a very serious issue among our young people,” said Williams.
The middle school adopted its anti-obesity initiative, “Let’s Move Roosevelt Middle School”, after the results of a further obesity study conducted during the 2011-12 school year revealed that 20% of the student population was at risk for obesity.
The initiative was inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s comprehensive campaign, Let’s Move!, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, and involves the collaborative efforts of educators, doctors and community leaders from Roosevelt UFSD, NuHealth Systems and Hofstra University. The program includes enhanced diet; fitness and nutrition education for parents, faculty and students; health fairs; improved health care monitoring and ongoing support.
Roosevelt Middle School has benefited from the childhood obesity initiative, said Susan C. Kay, RN, BSN, CPNP, MSN, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the pediatric endocrine, metabolism and lipid disorders clinics at Nassau University Medical Center. "We educate all families about the 'healthy plate,’ on which half the plate is green, a quarter is a protein and the last quarter is a fistful of starch," Kay said.
Staff teach families to read nutrition labels, use healthy cookbooks, explain nutrition information on fast-food chains and educate about 5-2-1-0 (five fruits and veggies each day, two hours total of TV/computer/video gaming systems, one hour of daily exercise, zero fried foods and juice), Kay said.
"With the use of a computer we do virtual food shopping with the patient to help them make healthy choices and/or healthy substitutions for favorite foods in the supermarket," she said. "We also provide community phone numbers for sports programs in the family’s local areas to encourage exercise."
The response to the initiative has been more than favorable. "Family dynamics have improved with education because [they] have become much more aware of the obesity issue and have learned improved ways to deal with related issues," Kay said.
Roosevelt Schools Superintendent, Robert Harris expressed his support and gratitude for the collective effort. “We are deeply appreciative for this collaboration and will ensure that it is a primary focus in our schools,” he said.