The Family Health Challenge -- Creating Opportunities for Residents to Serve and Learn Outside the Hospital The Bronx is facing an obesity crisis and its children are one of its most powerful solutions. According to the New York City Department of Health, while the rate of overweight and obese New Yorkers is 58 percent, in the Bronx, 70 percent of adults are overweight or obese. Additionally, studies show children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults. With these daunting statistics in mind, the CIR Healthy Bronx Initiative (HBI) collaborated with the Mary Mitchell Center (MMC) and Dr. Elizabeth Walker of the Prevention and Control Core of the Einstein Diabetes Research Center to launch the Family Health Challenge. The Challenge aims to educate Bronx children about nutrition, physical activity and environmental factors that influence their decisions regarding health. Their teachers are physicians in training from inner city safety-net hospitals. These doctors want to move beyond the hospital walls and the treatment of disease to engage the communities they serve in a discussion of preventative health. The CIR Policy and Education Initiative, with funding from the Patient Care Trust Fund, is sponsoring the Challenge as it completes is 2013 pilot phase of creating and implementing a nutrition curriculum aimed at children aged 7 to 11. The study goal is to determine if that education can influence behavior to favor healthier food choices when available. As the Principal Investigator of the project, Dr. Walker has been involved in the development and evaluation of the Challenge and will publish the results.
The eight-week curriculum is taught by resident physicians volunteering at two Bronx sites – PS 20 and MARC Academy. The goals are:
To increase knowledge about the benefits of eating vegetables and fruits, the difference between serving size vs. portion size, the adequate amount of exercise, the reality of eating fast foods, the benefits of eating whole-grain foods and the environmental factors that contribute to health decisions;
To improve attitudes regarding physical activity and the healthy food options they can make for themselves and/or with the help of their parents andguardians;
To change behavior regarding choices of food and beverage and exercise;
To educate children regarding the negative consequences of obesity on their health.
The program also encourages the participants to impart these messages outside of the school setting. Each week the students are reminded to talk about the challenges at home with their parents, siblings, and/or extended family. With this reach, the Challenge hopes to impact a greater number of people. During the spring of 2013, 11 residents from 8 hospitals volunteered to help Dr. Walker to develop and critique the curriculum materials and to teach in the 8 week program. For the current fall 2013 program, there are 20 residents from CIR's Bronx chapters participaing. Once the pilot is complete and the curriculum finalized, the Family Health Challenge can be replicated in other schools and after-school programs across the city. In the spring of 2013, Dr. Elena Ivanina, a resident at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, traveled to the Bronx to participate in the Challenge. She was so impressed that in the fall of 2013, as a fellow at the New York City Department of Health, Dr. Ivanina is introducing a Family Health Challenge program in Brooklyn. “I have learned so much about my patients’ everyday lives, which helps me understand my patients better and allows me to provide care in a more holistic, bio-psychosocial way. This opens your eyes to the realities and hardships of your patients.”