Monday, July 30, 2007

North Carolina School Officials Pursue Multi-Faceted Student Wellness Program

From RWJF email news:

North Carolina School Officials Pursue Multi-Faceted Student Wellness Program
Jul 25, 2007

Officials for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system in North Carolina are broadening their efforts to promote healthy lifestyles among children and curb rising childhood obesity rates, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. Last September, school officials partnered with Forsyth County Medical Center to measure the body mass indices (BMIs) of nearly 12,500 students in first, fourth, seventh and ninth grades and found that more than 40 percent were overweight or obese. Hoping to spur lifestyle changes, the system superintendent sent letters to the parents of students with high BMIs recommending that parents consult with their child's pediatrician. Officials also are working to increase the amount of physical activity during the school day by encouraging teachers to conduct five-minute, in-class activities called "energizers" and helping teachers' integrate nutrition education or physical activity into academic lesson plans. In addition, elementary schools offer at least 30 minutes of physical education daily and abide by wellness policies established last year requiring the inclusion of healthy food options on cafeteria menus and discouraging the use of food for fundraisers and classroom parties. In tandem with the schools' efforts, Forsyth County Medical Center is encouraging local restaurants to participate in its KidSmart program, which recognizes restaurants that meet at least five of seven requirements such as offering fresh produce, skim milk and whole wheat bread as menu options, and requiring a parent's permission before refilling soft drinks for children younger than age 12. Officials hope the changes will empower students to make healthier eating decisions and maintain active lifestyles (Deaver and Giovanelli, Winston-Salem Journal, 7/25/07).

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