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Pediatricians Transform East Rochester School for a Healthy Week

Docs outfit students with pedometers, healthy vending machine fare, aerobic videogames

Monday, March 31, 2008

During Wellness Week, East Rochester students will have open access to free fresh fruit in the cafeteria.

Beginning  Monday, April 7,  East Rochester students will embark on “Wellness Week,” a five-day adventure that highlights the importance of healthier eating and keeping active. The  project  is spearheaded by pediatric residents at the University of Rochester’s Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong together with school district faculty, staff and students.
The festivities technically begin this week, when health education pamphlets will be mailed home to parents, and assistant principal Brian Touranjoe (known as “Mr. T” to 7th to 12th grade students) will step up to a scale and publicly “weigh in,” challenging students to embrace more health-conscious habits alongside him.
The school’s nutrition services team will prepare healthier fare for the week, including baked chicken, carrots, peas, low-fat turkey submarine sandwiches, and even a free whole-wheat pizza lunch for the whole school on Friday. Vending machines that typically traffic in super-sweetened milks and juices will instead tender more traditional milk choices and water. Students will have open access to free fresh fruit in the cafeteria each day.
"We're extremely pleased to partner with the U of R for this project," said East Rochester School District superintendent, Howard Maffucci, Ph.D. "We think the Wellness Week activities will bring a little bit of fun and attention to something that's very important – good nutrition and regular exercise.
“We always try to encourage healthy habits in our district, but every little reminder, and every little incentive, helps."
But, as nutritious eating is only part of the battle, the week also provides outlets for students to boost physical activity. The schools’ many walkers will be armed with a total of 500 pedometers (donated by Preferred Care) to track their steps for a chance to win iPod Shuffles, iTunes gift cards or even an iPod Touch. The gym will be supervised for an hour after school for students to use sports equipment, and in the cafeteria, two Nintendo Wii game systems will offer students a chance to dare their friends to “Dance Dance Revolution” during their lunch period.

“About 17 to 18 percent of U.S. children and adolescents are obese,” said Marla Levine, M.D., one of the Rochester residents organizing the project. “Before this spirals out of control, we want to consider community campaigns to buck the trend. East Rochester School District, both because of its small size and its sincere motivation to embrace healthy change, was a perfect fit for our efforts.”

The project is funded primarily by a $10,000 grant from the Community and Pediatricians: Partners for Children Grants Program, sponsored by the Pediatric Links with the Community (PLC) program, which teaches new doctors how to leverage their health expertise outside of the doctor’s office by partnering with local community organizations. It is also aided by a $5,000 grant from the Halcyon Hill Foundation, and is the brainchild of not only Levine, but also pediatric residents Megan Gabel, M.D. and Laura Tomaselli, M.D., together with pediatric fellow Jennifer Foltz, M.D.
For more information about the weeklong health-focus, contact East Rochester School District communications coordinator, Doreen DiNardo, at (585) 248-6389, or public relations coordinator at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, Becky Jones, at (585) 275-8490.

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