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Program Teaches Elementary School Students To Take Charge Of Their Health

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September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month, and one program crafted for elementary schools has kids taking charge of their own health. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Students at P.S. 140 are taking their nutrition into their own hands as part of the Hospital for Special Surgery's SNEAKER Program.

"Which stands for Super Nutrition Education for Kids to Eat Right," says Robyn Wiesel, the coordinator for the SNEAKER Program.

It's a seven-week course with the goal of enabling children to take control of their health through nutrition and physical activity.

While the Centers for Disease Control announced a decrease nationally in childhood obesity, including in New York, experts say there's more work to be done, especially in educating families about the impact obesity has on a child's health.

"What we see is growth plate issues," says Dr. Shevaun Doyle, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery. "There's abnormal forces that obesity promotes, can contribute to deformity of the lower extremities that often leads to the need for surgery."

A predisposition to diabetes and heart disease is another side effect, as well as vitamin D deficiencies.

"Part of it is that they are in an urban environment with less exposure to the sun, but because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, they don't have high levels," Doyle says. "They're not building as strong bones, and so they have a higher likelihood if they fall to have an extremity fracture."

Through games, quizzes and prizes, it seems the kids are getting the message.

"I learned that you have to make the right choice when you're ordering from a fast food place," says Ryan Manners, a SNEAKER participant.

Ryan's classmate, Franchecka Roman, was surprised that the popcorn she had was healthier than the Wheat Thins.

"You need to know this stuff because you could eat something really, really unhealthy and you wouldn't even know it, but you could eat something really good, healthy, and it's better," she says.

Wiesel says it's making a difference.

"We're seeing increase in fiber consumption, increase in foods and vegetables. They're able to identify what a healthy snack is," she says. "We're also affecting behavior change. They're reporting an increase in physical activity."

The hope is that the kids will share their knowledge beyond the classroom.

"I think it empowers the child to really take control of preventing this problem and maybe even helping their parent," Doyle says.

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