Healthy schools project gets an 'A'

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- America is facing an epidemic. Despite numerous studies showing the negative effects of obesity on everything from heart disease and diabetes to possible links with cancer, one in five American children is obese. However, a collaborative program sponsored by the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor community teaches children healthy habits and offers hope for a healthier future. And results from a new study suggest that the program is working.

"Anything we can do to fight childhood obesity in a culture where it is being fostered in so many ways is critical," says Kim Eagle, M.D., professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. In 2004, Eagle and local organizations in Ann Arbor, Mich., founded Project Healthy Schools (www.projecthealthyschools.org), a program for sixth-grade students thats designed to increase physical activity and promote healthier food choices.

This week, U-Ms Kimberly Lin, M.D., presented data at the prestigious American College of Cardiology conference indicating that the program has been successful in its first couple of years. Lins presentation showed that program participants had a significant drop in diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, there was a downward trend in systolic blood pressures and blood glucose levels among the students.

Initially just implemented in one middle school, the program was so well received that it has now expanded to five local middle schools. The programs success has been acknowledged by the Michigan Surgeon General, who has recognized all the middle schools in the district through the Healthy School Environment Recognition Program.

Measuring change

"Weve had very positive feedback and we know were changing some behaviors," says Jean DuRussel-Weston, U-M's MFit Community Health Initiatives program administrator and Project Healthy Schools manager. "In add

Contact: Marissa Mann
University of Michigan Health System

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