Healthy Choices: Families, Schools, Community

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by Aneisa McDonald, MS

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The foundation for a lifetime of good health is built early. Parents, schools, community organizations and faith-based institutions have an incredible opportunity to create an environment for young children that supports healthy choices.  Have you ever noticed that children pay as much attention to what we do as much as what we say?  Role modeling can be a powerful tool to guide children toward healthy eating and active living.  That includes eating more home-cooked healthy meals with your family and helping children learn healthy ways to create simple meals.  Another opportunity for setting a good example is through regular exercise.  Children should be active for at least 60 minutes every day, and families benefit—and a good example is set—when everyone gets involved.

The Knox County Schools understands the importance of good health and believes in creating a healthy environment for children.  Simply put, healthy students are better prepared to learn and succeed in school.  Students who are active, well nourished, rested and safe are more likely to attend school and stay engaged in class, and healthy students also perform better on tests.  Teamwork is essential to ensuring students arrive at school ready to learn.  Parents and teachers together can remind kids to eat breakfast, stay physically active and limit screen time.  According to a 2013 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the current estimate of the amount of time kids spend viewing some type of screen is 7.5 hours per day.  That’s a lot of time devoted to a sedentary activity instead of being physically active!  Excessive screen time also can have an impact on the quality and length of sleep, and getting plenty of rest is critical for concentration and productivity.

Community organizations and initiatives also can be resources to support families on their journey to better health.  One initiative that is gaining momentum in our community is Let’s Move!  The Let’s Move! campaign is a comprehensive effort, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so children born today will grow up healthier and better able to pursue their dreams.  Childhood obesity can lead to long-term health issues, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.

Knoxville and Knox County were officially designated as a Let’s Move! city and county in 2012 based on their commitment to early childhood nutrition education, smart servings in schools, increased access to healthy foods, active kids at play and more.  By 2013, Knoxville and Knox County were ranked No. 1 in the nation among 300 other Let’s Move! cities, towns and counties.

Let’s Move! Knoxville is launched each year on the first Saturday in May (this year, May 3) from 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Victor Ashe Park.  At the event, more than 75 physical activity and nutrition stations showcase local resources to prevent childhood obesity, and this year, families will have an opportunity to participate in recipe demonstrations, seed planting, sports, games, rock climbing, the “Let’s Move! Flash Mob” and more.  Let May 3 be your family’s kickoff to better health this year!

Aneisa McDonald, MS, is a Coordinated School Health Specialist with the Knox County Schools.  Untitled-5


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