THE FAMILY HEALTH CHALLENGE IN MY HOMETOWN: A CONVERSATION WITH DR. DANIEL OLIVERO
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 2015 AT 12:44PM
Growing up in the South Bronx housing projects, CIR’s Dr. Daniel Olivero remembers feeling like an outcast because he was the only one of his friends who did not have asthma. He spent most of his time worrying about violence or getting mixed up in the wrong crowd, but today, the third year pediatrics resident has defied all the odds. He is working at Lincoln Hospital, the same hospital where he was born. Each week, he steps back into the halls of the elementary school he attended 25+ years ago to teach kids something he never learned – how to make choices that result in a healthy life. He is working with the Family Health Challenge, a program created by CIR, and leading weekly nutrition and fitness lessons at PS 18, a school located in the least healthy county in the state. Olivero and his colleagues visit with students and teach them about the perils of bad food choices and how being more physically active can help stave off life-altering conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
We sat down with Dr. Olivero to hear how the program is making an impact:
Why is it important that the Family Health Challenge involve doctors who are members of the community? You have to understand that for many of these kids and their parents, the unhealthy food options are usually the more affordable choices. That’s why when we first enter the classrooms we start with teaching kids to drink more water and less soda. One of the reasons this program is so impactful is because we can relate to the families. We know what they are up against and what’s realistic. We are able to providereal solutions that the kids then share with their parents. The ideas are brought home and it impacts the entire family. I consider all of the students and the Bronx community my family. I know how difficult it is to grow up there and live a healthy lifestyle, so if anyone is going to relate to them it’s going to be someone who knows what they are going through. The program is also helping break down barriers to trust. There is a mentality for many people in the community to not confide in or rely on people of authority, including doctors. But with this program we are tapping into the child’s environment where they feel security, and building relationships early on. Your son is a student at PS 18 and he was in one of your classes. What was that like? It was incredible. During my first visit to PS 18 we had the kids break up into small groups and I led the group that my son was in. We started talking about nutrition and the best foods the kids should be eating and out of nowhere my son turned to me and said, “Dad, I want to be strong just like you when I grow up.” It was so rewarding for me because it made me realize how important it is for these kids to have good role models, something I didn’t have growing up and probably something many of my son’s classmates don’t have.
Has this program impacted how you practice medicine? How so? It’s shown me that there is no limit to what can be done and what can be achieved when it comes to helping others. The fact that I was able to get out of the housing projects and am now back in my community helping others shows me that the future can be what you want it to be. The Family Health Challenge is just motivating me to do more. I’ve learned there are no boundaries in medicine, and if we want to, we can actually get out there and help people in real impactful ways. Do you think training programs today do enough to give doctors opportunities like this? I think the opportunities are there for many people and they just don’t take advantage of them. When I started my residency program at Lincoln I asked right away what programs were available that would get me out in the community. I feel a lot of the responsibilitylies withinthe individual. If a resident wants to be working out in the community, he or she should just go out and make it happen. I understand the time constraints many people are under, but programs like the Family Health Challenge are out there, and they make it so much easier to get involved. ### The Family Health Challenge is an 8-week community based obesity prevention program for 7-11 year olds. CIR doctors lead weekly lessons and introduce children to a series of healthy behaviors. Learn more.