BUFFALO, N.Y., October 16, 2013 - Students from several Buffalo public schools had the opportunity to meet NBA Hall-of-Fame basketball legend Dominique Wilkins at the Independent Health Foundation’s Fitness for Kids Challenge 2013-14 kick-off event today at Canisius College’s Koessler Athletic Center.
The health and wellness initiative, now in its sixth year, is offered to elementary school-aged children throughout Western New York and aims to bend the increasing trend of Type 2 diabetes and obesity in youth. This year’s program will challenge elementary school children to increase their physical activity and make good nutrition choices through May 2014.
“The Fitness for Kids Challenge kick-off really emphasized to the children the importance of fitness and nutrition in preventing illness and diseases like diabetes,” said Michael W. Cropp, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Independent Health. “We’re very appreciative of Dominique coming to Buffalo for this event and supporting our efforts in instilling healthy habits and behaviors in our area’s youth.”
Wilkins, a Type 2 diabetes patient, partners with Novo Nordisk as a Diabetes Ambassador in an effort to help raise awareness about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. At the event, Wilkins spoke about his life with diabetes and how he combats the illness with fitness and nutrition to about 200 fourth and fifth graders from PS 17 Early Childhood Center, PS 89 Dr. Lydia T. Wright School of Excellence and PS 54 George E. Blackman School of Excellence.
Following Wilkins’ speech, two lucky students from each school were selected to practice their basketball shooting skills with the nine-time NBA All-Star and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. All students then participated in drills and games conducted by the Canisius College men’s and women’s basketball teams and learned more about eating healthy at interactive educational stations run by health coaches from Independent Health.
“The Fitness for Kids Challenge program continues to develop new, exciting ways to inspire our youth to live healthy lives. Having such a prominent role model come here to speak about health and wellness has been a great experience for the children of our community,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director, Independent Health Foundation. “It has been rewarding to see so many kids get excited about health and nutrition through the program’s many initiatives throughout the years.”
“The sixth annual Fitness for Kids Challenge is going to have a profound impact on the health of our city youth,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “By promoting fitness and raising awareness about the dangers of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity, the Independent Health Foundation will help students to make good nutrition choices this school year and throughout their entire lives.”
Combating obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children
Obesity has emerged as the No. 1 health problem facing children in the United States, according to a report from the National Institute of Health. During the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents.1, 2 The rates for childhood obesity in Western New York are also alarming. Based on data collected by the New York State of Department of Health from 2008-2010, the following shows the percentage of pre-K through 10th grade students in each of the region’s eight counties who are considered overweight and obese:
- Wyoming County – 34.6 percent
- Niagara County – 33.6 percent
- Cattaraugus County – 33.6 percent
- Orleans County – 33.0 percent
- Chautauqua County – 29.2 percent
- Genesee County – 29.1 percent
- Erie County – 27.7 percent
- Allegany County – 21.7 percent
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults3-5 and, are therefore, more at risk for adult health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.6 As recently as the mid-1990s,Type 2 diabetes was almost exclusively a disease of adults. But fueled by the childhood obesity epidemic, cases in people younger than 20 have ramped up from virtually zero to tens of thousands in the United States in little more than a decade. However, healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing Type 2 diabetes and other related diseases.6
“We all have a role to play in creating a culture of health in Western New York. Through the Fitness for Kids Challenge, we are teaching young students that being active and eating right can be fun and easy,” said Meyer. “By encouraging our children to adopt exercise, fitness and proper nutrition at an early age, we are laying the foundation for a healthier community in the future.”
In the Challenge’s first five years, nearly 115,000 youth have been reached in approximately 200 schools throughout Western New York. The Fitness for Kids Challenge includes education, promotion, rewards, incentives, and community-wide events. It also includes grants, which are awarded to schools with the highest level of participation to be used for health and fitness initiatives. Since the start of the program, $53,000 in grant money has been awarded to more than 50 schools. School winners have used the money to purchase new physical education equipment, pay for field trips to fitness facilities and build an outdoor basketball court.
Go to www.fitnessforkidschallenge.com to follow the Fitness for Kids Challenge Crew – Jake, Tara, Emily, Rachel and Marco – and discover fun ways to stay active, learn how to eat right, find healthy recipes and register a school. For more information, call the Independent Health Foundation at (716) 635-4959.
Established in 1992, the Independent Health Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of Western New York residents through awareness, prevention, education and other programs focused on community health priorities. For more information on the Foundation’s activities, visit www.independenthealth.com/foundation.
Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.
National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.
Guo SS, Chumlea WC. Tracking of body mass index in children in relation to overweight in adulthood. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999;70:S145–148.
Freedman D, Wang J, Thornton JC, et al. Classification of body fatness by body mass index-for-age categories among children. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2009;163:801–811.
Freedman DS, Khan LK, Dietz WH, Srinivasan SA, Berenson GS. Relationship of childhood obesity to coronary heart disease risk factors in adulthood: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Pediatrics 2001;108:712–718.
Office of the Surgeon General. The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. Rockville, MD, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.