Transforming lives through the Healthy Me initiative: Calvin’s story
If you’ve watched any national health-related news the past several years, then it should come as no surprise that the increased rate of obesity in the United States is great cause for concern. Obesity in children and adolescents in particular poses risks for the country in terms of both national health and the economy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity has tripled in adolescents and more than doubled in children over the past three decades. Obese youth are placed at greater risk for several health conditions, including: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, stroke, and even several types of cancer. The risks are not just medical. Obese adolescents are also more likely to face social and psychological problems, such as negative stigmatization and low self-esteem, which can severely affect everyday functioning.
Our program at The Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, part of Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, is doing its part to help reverse the adolescent obesity problem. The Teen Xpress Healthy Me initiative is a six-week program in which adolescents at select Orange County middle and high schools participate in activities designed to educate them about proper health and nutrition. Each student begins Healthy Me with a comprehensive physical exam conducted by an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), to determine the student’s most important areas of focus. After this initial assessment and lab work is complete, students learn about nutrition from a registered dietitian, participate in various exercise routines with an athletic trainer and watch food demos to learn what foods are healthiest to eat and how best to prepare them. Teen Xpress also provides access to a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) for confidential behavioral health care, should students feel they need it.
Transforming lives through the Healthy Me initiative: Calvin’s storyCalvin wasn’t sure what to expect when he joined the Healthy Me initiative earlier this year. A local 10th grade student, Calvin had recently moved to Orlando with his father and was faced with a family history of hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. At 5’7” and just over 200lbs, Calvin was considered obese with mildly elevated blood pressure, and wanted to begin living healthier before his weight became a debilitating issue. When Teen Xpress visited his school, he was sure to make an appointment in an effort to get the help he needed to lose weight and feel better about himself.
Calvin began meeting regularly with the Teen Xpress registered dietitian to learn about portion control and the importance of having a “balanced plate,” as recommended by myplate.gov. He also received exercise tips that he could do at home, without needing a gym membership or expensive equipment. The Teen Xpress case manager emphasized the importance of Calvin’s mother being involved in his new lifestyle, and encouraged her to provide him with the support and reassurance he needed on his journey to better health and wellness.
After six months, Calvin returned to Teen Xpress to check his progress. He had lost 22lbs, his blood pressure was lower, and he demonstrated a greater knowledge of healthy eating and staying active to avoid chronic illnesses. His case manager noticed him smiling more, and his teachers even commented on his improved behavior. In fact, Calvin’s experience with the Healthy Me initiative was so successful that he was invited to be the guest motivational speaker at a special dinner for other Healthy Me participants. His advice to others going through the same thing as him was simple: “Think about one thing you can do today to live healthy, then do it.” He went on to encourage others to drink water rather than soda, lower their portion sizes and to try new, healthier things, even if they don’t think they’ll like it at first.
“It’s not about eating or drinking healthy,” Calvin explained to his fellow students. “It’s about your desire to live healthy.”
The Teen Xpress Healthy Me initiative is working to reverse the obesity epidemic in Orlando and subsequently improve health outcomes for adolescents in general. By providing individual, comprehensive education to its participants, the Healthy Me initiative is empowering students with the knowledge and tools they need to become healthy adults and beat the obesity epidemic. Calvin is just one example of the hundreds of students participating in Healthy Me every year who are taking initiative and working against obesity. By working together, healthcare professionals, educators and students can truly create a healthier and more stable future for the nation’s children.
To learn more about Teen Xpress and the Healthy Me initiative, click here.