2006 News


2006 News

PRNewswire- Pittsburgh, PA April 12, 2006

Highmark Offers SPARK Training Sessions for After-School Providers and Community Organizations Program encourages children to stay active, healthy and help prevent childhood obesity

PITTSBURGH, April 12 -- Less than 25 percent of school-age children get even 20 minutes of rigorous daily physical activity, well below the minimum doctors prescribe. Thanks to a partnership with Highmark Inc., the Sports Play and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) program is offered throughout Pennsylvania and training sessions are now scheduled to expand the program further.

The SPARK program, developed in San Diego, CA, is designed for children between the ages of five and 14 to enhance their enjoyment of movement, as well as to instill a life-long love of active recreation. The structured 60- minute program promotes physical activity which is an important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and helping to prevent obesity.

One-day training sessions are available for community organizations and after-school providers across Pennsylvania. All of the following training sessions are from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and include curriculum-based lectures as well as hands-on, fitness-related activities. Training dates and locations include:

Date Address City
Tuesday, April 25 John C. Diehl Elementary School 2327 Fairmont Parkway Erie
Wednesday, April 26 New Castle YMCA 20 W. Washington Street New Castle
Wednesday, May 3 Greensburg YMCA 101 S. Maple Avenue Greensburg
Thursday, May 11 Family YMCA of Easton 1225 W. Lafayette Street Easton
Wednesday, May 24 Washington & Jefferson College 60 S. Lincoln Street Washington

To register for one of the SPARK training sessions, call toll-free, 1-800-652-9420. Or visit the Community link on www.highmark.com to download the training application form to e-mail, fax or mail back to Highmark. Additional training sessions will be scheduled for the fall.

Highmark has long been at the forefront of leading initiatives aimed at fighting obesity in children and adults. Beginning in 2002, Highmark provided funding that afforded the launch of Fun to Be Fit, a physical education curriculum developed and instituted within Pittsburgh Public Schools affecting over 22,000 children in grades K through 8. The program incorporates nutrition education each time students meet for phys-ed classes and relies on non- competitive, fun activities to engage students.

Since then, Highmark has provided funding for the KidShape program now available at 10 sites in Pennsylvania, and made $475,000 in grants to help schools develop activities and programs to prevent childhood obesity.

In addition, Highmark and area physician leaders created a tool kit to assist doctors in talking to children and parents about obesity and weight- related issues. Most recently, Highmark launched the Highmark Health eTools for Schools Web-based, demonstration project designed to monitor student Body Mass Index (BMI) and improve school nutrition and physical activity programs.

About Highmark Inc. As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

________________________________________ Source: Highmark Inc.

PRNewswire- New York, New York June 2, 2006

Highmark Foundation Receives New Five-Year Support for Expanded Focus on Children's Health Promotion

PITTSBURGH, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- Highmark Inc. today announced $100 million in funding to its affiliate, the Highmark Foundation, to support contributions targeted toward children's health promotion throughout the next five years.

Children's health promotion is a strategy for improving the health of children by providing them with the tools and practices needed for healthy behavior. Through extensive research of emerging health issues, Highmark identified children's health promotion as a significant issue in communities across the state. And Pennsylvania reflects a national trend. Children's health advocates fear America is in danger of raising the first generation of children who will live sicker and die younger than the generation before them.

"We're already seeing the toll childhood obesity alone is having on our community with increased incidences of Type 2 diabetes and other medical conditions," said Kenneth R. Melani, M.D., Highmark's president and CEO. "We recognize the tremendous economic and social benefits of promoting healthy habits in children. This contribution will enable us to make a significant impact on the lives of children in communities we serve."

Highmark has a long history of involvement in promoting children's health, demonstrated through leadership and funding. The company's focus on childhood obesity is just one example. Throughout the past four years, Highmark has provided funding for the KidShape program now available at 10 sites in Pennsylvania, supported training for educators in the Sports Play and Active Recreation Program (SPARK), and made $475,000 in grants to help schools develop activities and programs to prevent childhood obesity. Most recently, Highmark launched the Highmark Health eTools for Schools Web-based demonstration project designed to monitor student Body Mass Index (BMI) and improve school nutrition and physical activity programs.

The Highmark Foundation has been making grants in the areas of chronic disease, communicable disease, family health and service delivery systems to support initiatives and programs aimed to improve communities since 2001. As a charitable organization and a private foundation, the Highmark Foundation seeks to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the 49 Pennsylvania counties served by Highmark -- encompassing Western Pennsylvania, Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Examples of recent grant making from the Highmark Foundation include:

  • $100,000 in funding to bring the production of an HIV/AIDS documentary series to Pittsburgh's Westinghouse High School.
  • $135,000 in funding to Every Child, Inc. to investigate, analyze and act on the multiple factors that affect families raising children with complex health care needs in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
  • $200,000 in funding to the Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center in York, Pa. to continue developing an e-learning center that was initially established in 2001 with a $500,000 Highmark Foundation grant.

The Foundation will launch a comprehensive strategy for children's health promotion and grant making to coincide with children returning to school in September.

For more information about Highmark and the Highmark Foundation, visit www.highmark.com.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.

Sporting Goods Business Magazine- Washington, D.C. June 16, 2004

Nike Calls For Daily P.E. Classes In US Schools

JUNE 16, 2004 -- In a speech at the HealthierUS Fitness Festival today, Nike called for companies, athletes, coaches and educators to work together to bring P.E. classes taught by P.E. specialists for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to American schools. Nike said an innovative, new type of P.E. program, like that developed by SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids), which is fun, interactive and constantly moving, should replace the out-moded P.E. classes that were taught through most of the late-20th Century.

Nike and SPARK were among the more than 50 organizations to participate in the HealthierUS Fitness Festival on the National Mall. The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports joined with Congressmen Zach Wamp and Mark Udall, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fitness Caucus, to organize and showcase activities and resources available to get Americans moving for health.

"For the first time in 100 years, kids today have a shorter life expectancy than their parents," said Gary DeStefano, president, Nike USA Operations. "Our national epidemic of youth inactivity and unhealthy weight has worsened with the decline of school-based P.E. programs. Studies show these programs are some of the most effective ways to increase activity among youth. We believe one way to reverse this trend is for companies, organizations and the government to work together to help bring daily P.E. classes taught by P.E. specialists back to schools."

During the HealthierUS Fitness Festival, Nike, SPARK, University of Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams and Houston Comet's Cynthia Cooper hosted an interactive PE2GO demonstration of the "new P.E.," a combination of constant movement, fun and skills development for kids. PE2GO is a national, standards-based program designed by Nike and SPARK to help increase the quality and quantity of physical education in schools where P.E. classes have been drastically reduced or eliminated. Nike and SPARK deliver the curriculum, training and equipment to classroom teachers to prepare them to teach P.E. to fourth and fifth grade kids. In the fall of 2003, PE2GO launched in six U.S. cities, reaching over 6,400 fourth and fifth graders in 43 elementary schools.

"PE2GO is the 'New P.E.,' where students no longer stand on the sidelines or in line waiting for a turn to play. All kids get simultaneous opportunities to participate, develop their own individual skills and learn to enjoy physical activity," said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK. "We provide schools with a self-contained physical education program that gives P.E. specialists and classroom teachers the tools to instill in children a lifelong love of physical activity."

Only one in four U.S. public school students attends regular P.E. classes, and fewer than one in four children get 20 minutes of vigorous activity every day. Health professionals agree kids should take part in a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day of the week. Preliminary results from the first year PE2GO evaluation by Dr. Sarah Levin Martin, of the Physical Activity and Health Branch at the Centers for Disease Control, demonstrate more than just physical benefits from the program: Nine out of 10 kids are more active, and enjoy it; three out of four kids learned physical activities that can be enjoyed for a lifetime; three out of four kids learned to cooperate with others and improve social skills; and P.E. teaching skills improved.

In her remarks at the HealthierUS Fitness Festival, Nike's director of US community affairs explained that Nike's ultimate goal is to initiate lifestyle changes in students so they will lead more physically active lives. "Initial results from our first year of PE2GO have been overwhelmingly positive and demonstrate the majority of kids' fitness levels and sports and movement skills improved markedly," said Molly White. "Even more exciting, we received love letters from teachers and kids who were so enthused with the program that they asked for daily P.E. classes in their schools. In year two, we plan to reach more schools in current cities and school districts as well as explore other cities in order to bring the 'New P.E.' to more kids throughout the country."

In addition to PE2GO, Nike is involved in several initiatives designed to increase the participation of young people in physical activity as a means to improve their lives. These range from after-school programs at Boys & Girls Clubs to collaboration with Indian Health Services to fight diabetes among Native American youth to national and regional advocacy. Nike has made a long-term commitment to help kids get physically active, through its signature affairs program, NikeGO

By Lauren Brooks Redding News-Redding, California June 18, 2006

Redding schools get award for boosting activity

Rather than running laps during physical education, children at six elementary schools in Redding now dance with rhythm sticks, play with hula hoops or throw "fluff balls" made of yarn.

The Redding School District has worked with Shasta County Public Health for about two years to bring about a change in physical education.

Children are more physically active, they're eating healthier and they're better behaved in the classroom, said a county public health deputy director.

"We all came together for the betterment of our children," said Terri Fields-Hosler, Shasta County Public Health deputy director.

During a school board meeting Wednesday evening, the Redding School District was recognized for its innovative partnership to improve children's health when it received the Cities Counties Schools Partnership Award.

Shasta County Supervisor Mark Cibula presented the award in front of students, parents and board members from four school districts. The award was formed by the California State Association of Counties, the California School Boards Association and the League of California Cities.

School fitness These schools use SPARK equipment to improve children's physical education:
  • Manzanita Elementary
  • Cypress School
  • Bonny View Elementary
  • Sycamore Elementary
  • Turtle Bay Elementary
  • Juniper Acadamy
  • Sequoia Middle School (in its afterschool program)

The Redding School District realized the importance of physical education and that it complements academics, said Jeff Mushkin, a community education specialist. And public health officials recognized their ability to support schools, he said. School districts such as Enterprise Elementary School District look to Redding as a model, said Diane Kempley, Redding School District superintendent.

"We're blazing the trail," Kempley said.

The district's success comes from healthier food options in cafeterias, not having vending machines and a new structured fitness program called SPARK, or Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids, Kempley said.

Schools across the country use SPARK, but Shasta County is the first to implement the program countywide. It provides physical education training for elementary schoolteachers and new workout equipment for children, Fields-Hosler said.

Shasta County Public Health gave grants to 17 elementary schools for the 2006-2007 school year for SPARK training and equipment.

"The kids love it, the teachers love it," Fields-Hosler said. "It gives teachers tools." The non-competitive program keeps students active for all 30 minutes of their physical education rather than having some students standing on the sidelines, she said.

Mushkin, who trains teachers in physical education, said students don't worry about being picked last for teams because games often have lots of small teams that rotate members. For example, children play 3-on-3 soccer instead of 11-on-11. This strategy keeps them moving and teaches athletic skills, he said. Mushkin teaches games that are fun, interactive, challenging and include all the children. During the summer, he shows teachers how to use the SPARK program. "It empowers them to do it themselves," he said.

His goal is to integrate the program into middle schools next year and eventually into high schools. Sequoia Middle School is already using SPARK equipment in its after-school program. SPARK expanded last year to include seven afterschool programs and three preschools in Redding.

Reaching young children is important because they're more likely to be active the rest of their lives, Mushkin said.

Schools can measure SPARK's progress by comparing fitness scores of fifth-graders during the next few years to see if there's an improvement, he said.

But Mushkin already notices a positive change in children's behavior.

"Kids are asking to go outside," he said. "They're asking to be active. It's a huge difference."

Reporter Lauren Brooks can be reached at 225-8215 or at lbrooks@redding.com.

By: Barbara Christie-Garvin Burlington Free Press June 24, 2006

Quality after-school care within our reach

Each weekday across New England at around 3 p.m., school bells, buzzers and tones sound, signaling the end of the school day, and children of all ages head out of class and toward whatever the rest of the afternoon holds for them. At that very instant, a huge number of working parents in the region get a knot in their stomachs because they know their children are no longer under the care of adult professionals. That same reaction resurfaces this month as children are let out of school for the summer.

In fact, according to a new report on how New England schoolchildren spend their weekday afternoons, fully one in five kids has no safe, supervised activity after the school day ends. The absence of adult supervision means these children are left to take care of themselves at a time of day when juvenile crime peaks, and when a range of inappropriate behaviors beckon, including drugs and alcohol, gangs and teen sex.

For about one in seven New England children, the afternoon picture is very different. These are the lucky few who participate in formal after-school programs -- at school, a YMCA or Boys & Girls Club, or at some other community-based organization's facility. In most of their programs, these children will have an opportunity to get homework help or individual tutoring, play a sport or get some other exercise, and maybe learn some life skills not taught during the regular school day. They'll do all that under the watchful of eye of adult professionals, determined to keep them safe and constructively engaged when they might otherwise be home alone or out on the streets.

The report on what our kids are up to in the afternoon is "New England After 3 PM," prepared by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works to promote after-school opportunities for children nationwide. Their survey research indicates that, in addition to the 350,000 New England schoolchildren now in after-school programs, the parents of another 640,000 would enroll their kids if a program were available to them. That's a big "if," of course, because turning it into reality will require a much stronger commitment from government and the private sector alike.

The Afterschool Alliance's overall assessment of the state of after school in New England is worth a look (http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/press_archives/america_3pm/Executive_Summary.pdf) because they reach an interesting conclusion: that despite all the work that remains to be done -- creating after-school opportunities for 640,000 kids, for example -- the region is still in a position to take national leadership on after school. Citing a number of promising programs, including the Vermont Out-of-School-Time Network's SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) program, now being piloted as part of the Governor's Fit and Healthy Kids Initiative, promoting physical activity and nutrition in after-school programming, the organization concludes that if the region works together, it can set a new and brisk pace for after school across the nation.

That would be especially good news for children in Vermont. Two facts fairly fly off the page of the study. First, the overwhelming share of Vermont parents with children in after-school programs -- 93 percent -- are somewhat or extremely satisfied with the programs. Second, the parents of more than 30,000 children in the Green Mountain State would enroll their children in an after-school program if one were available.

Plainly after-school programs are meeting an important need for many of our children. But many more children and their families need after school than are now able to find it, access it, and pay for it.

So how do we fix that? With a regional commitment. New England's leaders need to heed the call from New England's citizens, and commit themselves to building an after-school infrastructure throughout the region that allows supply to catch up with demand, and that puts the region in the driver's seat nationally on after school.

Getting there will require pressing the federal government to provide the resources it promised in the No Child Left Behind Act but has not yet delivered. And it will require state and local governments to increase funding, as well as do some rethinking about how school districts, programs and local communities cooperate to support after school.

And, of course, it will require increased commitment from the business and philanthropic communities. The Vermont Out of School Time Network enlists key partners that operate on a statewide, regional and local levels to work together on important issues that promote and support quality after-school opportunities for all children and youth in the state.

Working together, the New England states are poised to seize leadership on after-school issues. That's good news, provided we follow through.

Barbara Christie-Garvin is the coordinator of the Vermont Out-of-School-Time Network at the Washington County Youth Service Bureau/ Boys and Girls Club in Montpelier (http://www.voost.org/).


dBusinessNews- Portland, Oregon June 26, 2006

NikeGO Announces $250,000 Donation to Portland Parks & Recreation

Portland - NikeGO, Nike's signature community affairs program and the company's long-term commitment to get kids moving and give them the means to do it, announced today that it has presented a $175,000 cash donation to Portland Parks & Recreation. The funds will be used for Portland Parks & Recreation's Summer Playgrounds Program as well as for the continuation of the development of NikeGO cards for low-income children. The cards will provide the youth with access to a full menu of after-school activities and weekend programs during the school year.

"For over three years, Nike's generosity has helped Portland Parks & Recreation increase its programs that provide physical activities for children in low-income neighborhoods," said Zari Santner, Director of Portland Parks & Recreation. "At a time when obesity is identified as the single most common contributor to diabetes among children, Nike's contribution goes beyond providing fun and games for kids. It will also improve their health and overall well-being."

A NikeGO donation of $75,000 will go towards expanding Portland Parks & Recreation's popular Summer Playgrounds Program, which NikeGO has supported for the last three years. The grant funds will staff each playground with a recreation specialist who will receive custom training from NikeGO curriculum partner SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids). Participating youth will also receive a free, nutritious lunch as part of the program. Summer Playgrounds Program sites include: Alberta, Essex, Harney, Irving, Kenton, Lents, McKenna, Oregon, Peninsula and Woodlawn. Each site is expected to host 300 kids a day throughout the summer.

"We are extremely pleased to once again provide this level of support to Portland Parks and Recreation and the kids who enjoy their programs each summer," said Danielle Killpack, Senior Manager for Corporate Responsibility in Oregon. "From a community perspective, Nike's goal is to get kids moving, while giving them the means to do it. Our partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation helps us achieve that."

An additional $75,000 will fund NikeGO cards, the next-generation name for Project Inclusion, a program NikeGO funds helped launch in 2004 to enable more than 800 low-income youth to participate in Portland Parks & Recreation after-school and weekend physical activity programs. Each NikeGO card is a free pass for fun and fitness.

The cards are distributed to low-income children for whom registration fees are a barrier to activities that get them moving. Participating youth will receive a NikeGO card on a lanyard that will provide them access to one of three 10-week terms. Cards will be issued at community centers and are redeemable at all Portland Parks & Recreation facilities. More then 800 kids are expected to use NikeGO cards during the 2006-07 year.

The remaining $25,000 will be used to support an end-of summer NikeGO Play Day at Mount Scott Community Park. The event, which will be held in August, will serve some 2,000 Portland-area youth and will feature swimming, tennis, roller-skating, and other activities.

"Nike's gifts to the Portland Parks Foundation and the Parks Bureau reflect the close partnerships we've formed," said Randy Sell, Chair of the Portland Parks Foundation Board. "These partnerships also underscore Nike's commitment ensuring that the children of our city have every opportunity to enjoy active lifestyles. The NikeGO program is one that fits our mission perfectly."

Also today, NikeGO announced that it is making a separate donation to the Pier Park Skatepark. The $75,000 grant-which will be funded in part by Nike Skateboarding-will help support efforts to redesign the existing skatepark facilities at the St. Johns neighborhood park.

"Nike Skateboarding is proud to be a part of the efforts to rebuild Pier Park and is looking forward to contributing to the Portland Skatepark Network," said Kevin Imamura of Nike Skateboarding. "Together we can help make the city of Portland a world-class destination for skaters from around the globe."

In 2002, Nike donated a $2 million gift to the Portland metro-area residents called The Anniversary Project to resurface all of Portland Parks and Recreation's outdoor basketball courts as Nike's way of thanking the Portland area for being its home for the last 30 years. The Anniversary Project represents Nike's largest one-time sports surface donation in the world. As part of the project, nearly 90 existing outdoor basketball courts (41 full-courts and 48 half or partial courts) in more than 30 Portland parks were resurfaced with a world-class, cushioned Rebound Ace surface containing recycled shoes. In addition to resurfacing the courts, Nike is assisting with court maintenance expenses through 2017. The Anniversary Project was inspired in part by Nike Chairman and co-founder Phil Knight, who grew up in Southeast Portland and, prior to founding Nike, served as the Lents Park Program Director in 1960.

About Portland Parks & Recreation Portland Parks & Recreation owns and manages more than 10,000 acres of public parkland and open space within the City of Portland. Portland Parks & Recreation's mission is to sustain a healthy park system to make Portland a great place to live, work, and play. Information is available online at: www.portlandparks.org.

About NikeGO NikeGO is Nike's signature U.S. community affairs initiative and the company's long-term commitment to getting kids more physically active. The program's mission is to increase physical activity in youths, offering them the support and motivation to become physically active, stay healthy and have fun. In its most recent fiscal year, Nike contributed more than $10.5 million in cash and products and served more than 150,000 kids through its programs and partnerships. Visit www.nikego.com for additional information.

By Jimmie Covington Commercialappeal.com - Memphis, Tennessee July 22, 2006

Childhood wellness a priority in schools

There was serious talk about a serious problem -- childhood obesity and the damaging effect that poor nutrition and lack of physical activity can have on lives.

There was discussion about new state and local wellness policies and reports on strategies and plans that are already having an effect in both DeSoto County and some other places in the state.

And mixed in between at a daylong meeting Friday on forming health councils at all the county's public schools, there was physical activity and fun.

A trainer led about 75 principals, teachers, officials and community representatives through phrases, rhythms and movements that have proved effective as fitness and learning activities for early elementary youngsters.

Participants stomped feet and clapped hands, and they even did an "oink, a moo and a quack, quack, quack" in one of the movement activities that involved learning about animals.

"It's called activity from the get-go," Faith Grinder of Eads, Tenn., a trainer for San Diego-based The SPARK Programs, said. "We call it disguised fitness. They don't know they're working out."

SPARK works with school districts and other organizations in developing, implementing and evaluating wellness programs and activities.

Friday's school health council summit at school board headquarters in Hernando was hosted by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi and the county's Community Health Council.

As part of an intensified effort to promote childhood wellness and prevent childhood obesity, the foundation will hold summit meetings in the coming weeks involving faith-based organizations and businesses.

Peggy Linton, health council chairman and community foundation development director, said foundation and health council leaders were very pleased with Friday's turnout among school principals, teachers and other school representatives.

"Out of 33 schools, we have 23 that have registered," she said. "It is required that each school has a school health council, so what we want to do is offer resources to those schools to help them establish health councils," Linton said.

Sue Mashburn, the Mississippi Department of Health's District 1 health educator, said Mississippi leads the nation in both childhood obesity and cardiovascular disease.

"Obesity is one of the major modifiable risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease," Mashburn said. "That is why it is very important that we get into schools and we teach our youth and educate the public on the risk factors that are involved in chronic illness."

She presented statistics including one showing that a higher percentage of Mississippi high school students have insufficient physical activity and a lower percentage have daily physical education classes than high school students nationally.

Among other speakers was Carolyn Whitehead, health and physical education coordinator and assistant athletic director of McComb City Schools.

The McComb superintendent, Dr. Pat Cooper, is a "visionary" who had worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The McComb district, which has five schools, began implementing a coordinated school health and PE program six years ago, she said.

"We have a nurse in every school; we have mental health counselors in every school; we have behavior interventionists in every school; we have certified PE teachers in every school," she said. "It makes a difference."

Other speakers included officials of the state's Office of Healthy Schools and leaders of three DeSoto schools -- Shadow Oaks, Walls and Hernando elementaries, which have already launched intensified wellness and physical activity programs.

Several local officials attended part of Friday's meeting, including Mayors Chip Johnson of Hernando and Nat Baker of Horn Lake and state Rep. Ted Mayhall, R-Southaven.

-- Jimmie Covington: (662) 996-1406


Controlling obesity Many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, in which Mississippi leads the nation, can be controlled, experts say. These are some of the leading modifiable factors:

  • Physical Activity: Lack of regular exercise.
  • Sedentary behavior: High frequency of television viewing, computer use and similar behavior that takes up time that can be used for physical activity.
  • Socioeconomic status: Low family incomes and non-working parents
  • Eating habits: Over-consumption of high-calorie foods. Some eating patterns that have been associated with this behavior are eating when not hungry, eating while watching TV or doing homework.
  • Environment: Some factors are over-exposure to advertising of foods that promote high-calorie foods and lack of recreational facilities.

Source: American Obesity Association

By Nanci Hellmich USA TODAY- Montville, New Jersey August 23, 2006

Help For Gym Teachers

Physical education teachers vary greatly in their talents and techniques, says James Sallis, director of the Active Living Research Program at San Diego State University.

Many teachers do creative things such as having students use climbing walls, he says. Other teachers fall into the middle ground and do the "easy thing and throw out a few balls and have kids organize themselves for a baseball game or basketball game," he says.

"And then I hate to say it, but there's still an awful lot of what I call PE malpractice going on," Sallis says. Teachers may be doing crossword puzzles in the corner and telling students to go play or just letting students sit around and talk. They may have children standing in long lines waiting to play a game or run a relay, he says.

Sallis has done research on a training program called SPARK - Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids - in which teachers learn how to keep children moving during gym class. Softball and other games are modified so all the students get to throw, catch, run or hit on every play.

Games such as soccer are played with smaller teams, so every child spends more time running and touching the ball.

Students even do fun warm-up drills while attendance is taken.

Says Sallis: "There are a lot of tricks to making efficient use of PE time."

More time in PE doesn't add up Just increasing the amount of time students are supposed to spend in physical education class is no guarantee they'll move more, a new study shows.

Obesity experts have been calling for children to go to gym class more often to help stop obesity in young people. About one-third of children and teens in the USA are either overweight or on the brink of becoming so.

Government research shows that the percentage of high school students enrolled in daily physical education decreased from about 42% in 1991 to 33% in 2005.

Most states introduced legislation this year and in 2005 to toughen up PE requirements.

To figure out whether higher PE time requirements are effective, economist John Cawley of Cornell University and colleagues analyzed data on 37,000 teens in grades nine through 12 from government surveys in 1999, 2001 and 2003. The economists did calculations on students' height, weight and amount of time in gym classes and compared the data with states' PE requirements.

Fifth-grader Carina Goldbach, 11, leads her schoolmates in exercises at Valley View Elementary School in Montville, N.J., in May. Despite a nationwide push on physical education, a study finds many students aren't getting enough exercise in class. By Mike Derer, AP
They found that when states required an extra year of PE for high school students, which is roughly 200 more minutes a week of physical education:
  • Male students said they spent another 7.6 minutes a week exercising or playing sports in gym class.
  • Female students spent an extra eight minutes and six seconds a week doing exercise in PE.

There may be several reasons for this small increase in time, Cawley says. "Some schools are ignoring the laws and not meeting the state requirements." And some teachers are not keeping children moving during class time, he says.

His research also showed that the amount of time states required for physical education classes didn't seem to have an effect on teens' weight or risk of obesity.

He says another study showed that 26% of schools in the country fail to comply with state regulations for PE, and research on elementary school students in a county in Texas showed that the children did moderate to vigorous activity for 3.4 minutes of a 40-minute class. About two-thirds of class time was spent in sedentary activity; one-quarter of the time was spent doing minimal activity.

"The real risk here is that states may increase the time requirements, think they've addressed the problem of childhood obesity and may move on to other priorities," says Cawley, whose paper is in the fall issue of Education Next. The journal is published by the Hoover Institution, a non-profit think tank at Stanford University.

If states want to increase physical activity, they also need to consider revising PE curricula to ensure that schools offer motivating classes that actually get kids to play games, run around and move more, he says. Plus, there's the question of enforcement. Parents and policymakers need to hold schools and teachers accountable to meet the requirements, Cawley says.

Russell Pate, professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, who has also studied PE, says classes run the gamut from ones in which students spend a lot of time moving to those in which children are standing around most of the time.

"That would be the equivalent of a math class where nobody is working on their math problems," he says. Craig Buschner, president-elect of the National Association of Sport and Physical Education, a group of professionals in the field, says, "Physical education, if taught well, can be a cornerstone of helping people become physically active throughout their lives."

Copyright 2006 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

PRNewswire- New York, New York September 14, 2006

Highmark Inc. Launches Unprecedented Five-Year, $100 Million Initiative to Improve Children's Health and Well-being

Highmark Healthy High 5, a new initiative of the Highmark Foundation, is an investment in promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors in children and adolescents.

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Highmark Inc. today launched Highmark Healthy High 5, a five-year, $100 million community initiative supported by its contribution to the Highmark Foundation in an effort to reverse the current trends in children's health and to promote lifelong healthy habits in children throughout its 49-county service area.

Highmark Healthy High 5 will address five critical children's health issues -- nutrition, physical activity, self-esteem, grieving and bullying -- through education, communications, volunteerism, grants and programming.

"Leading health experts tell us we are in danger of raising the first generation of American children who will be sicker and die younger than the generation before them," said Kenneth Melani, M.D., Highmark president and chief executive officer. "Numerous studies illustrate that the health habits children develop at a young age will continue with them through adulthood. The goal of Highmark Healthy High 5 is to help children and adolescents develop the health habits they need to make informed choices to lead longer, healthier lives."

To influence change and promote children's health in the region, Melani also announced a number of organizations will partner with the Highmark Foundation to serve as content and program experts for the initiative. The Healthy High 5 initial partners are Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity (PANA); Susan P. Byrnes Health Education Center; SPARK Active Recreation Program; Heartwood Institute; Office of Community Health, Conemaugh Health System; InnerLink, developer of Highmark Health eTools for Schools; and Highmark Caring Place.

"The core partners will provide expert programming as well as strategic development to help ensure the effectiveness and overall impact of Highmark Healthy High 5," said Melani. "With their help and expertise -- as well as other partners we identify over the next five years -- we will be able to expand their existing programming to children across our entire service area."

According to Paul Rosengard, founder of the SPARK Active Recreation Program, Highmark Healthy High 5 will provide the core program partners the ability to reach more young people throughout Pennsylvania.

"Whether our focus is fitness, nutrition, grieving, self-esteem or bullying, we are each committed to improving the lives of children," Rosengard said. "I am not aware of any other initiative in the country with this type of program support and resources to address these important health issues."

Through a new grant-making strategy, programs and initiatives will be supported to help make a meaningful impact in the area of children's health and reverse current trends. Highmark Healthy High 5 grant applications will be accepted from organizations beginning in the fall of 2006 to coincide with the launch of the program and the Highmark Foundation's quarterly funding schedule.

To help educate the public and create awareness of the issue of children's health, a Highmark Healthy High 5 public service announcement was unveiled at the event. It will begin airing immediately throughout Pennsylvania. The company also unveiled www.highmarkhealthyhigh5.org, which is a new Web site where adults, children and communities can learn about the program, healthy lifestyle behaviors and how to get involved.

History of supporting children's health initiatives In addition to the announcement of its contribution to the Highmark Foundation for Highmark Healthy High 5, Highmark also stressed the company's existing efforts to positively impact children's health around the region. Highmark has long been at the forefront of leading initiatives aimed at fighting obesity in children and adults. Beginning in 2002, Highmark has been bringing together physicians, community leaders, educators and policy makers in a collaborative effort to address overweight and obesity in children.

Since then, Highmark has provided funding for the KidShape® program now available at 10 sites in Pennsylvania and supported training for educators in SPARK. Earlier this year, Highmark awarded $400,000 to 86 school districts across Pennsylvania through the Highmark Challenge for Healthier Schools program to help them implement programs to combat childhood obesity.

Additionally, in August, the Highmark Foundation announced a $1 million grant to Harrisburg City School District for a dental and preventive health care program for city students and the company presented its first Fun, Fit and Fabulous(SM) teen health conference in Hershey for teens of color ages 13 to 18.

"As a health insurance company, Highmark understands the importance of combating the current childhood obesity problem we face today," said Melani. "With the annual cost of obesity in the United States currently upwards of $100 billion annually, it makes both business, but more importantly, moral sense to address this problem by encouraging healthy eating habits and increased physical activity among children."

About Highmark Inc. As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans.

About the Highmark Foundation The Highmark Foundation is an affiliate of Highmark Inc. and was created to support initiatives and programs aimed to improve community health. The Foundation is a charitable organization and a private foundation. The Foundation seeks to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals who reside in the 49 Pennsylvania counties served by Highmark.

By Anne Pleshette Murphy and Jennifer Allen ABC News-Everett, Pennsylvania October 23, 2006

A Gym Class That Really Works Out

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Remember the good old days of gym class, when you hated being the last kid picked for flag football or waited half a class period for your turn with the basketball? Unfortunately, in the majority of physical education classes across the country, not much has changed. Not only are most PE classes sub par, students also get less exercise time than they need.

According to the 2006 Shape of the Nation, a joint project between the American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, the percentage of students who take PE daily dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 28 percent in 2003.

The study also found that about a third of states in America do not mandate physical education for elementary and middle school students.

This is unsettling news, particularly in light of skyrocketing childhood obesity rates. Approximately 25 million American children and teens are either overweight or on the verge of being overweight, which boosts their risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and cancer.

A new program based in San Diego wants to change all that. Sports, Play and Active Recreation For Kids, better known as SPARK, is a research-based organization that applies innovative techniques to traditional PE programs to promote health and wellness and to maximize kids' gym time.

"Teachers often spend a little too much time managing students, putting out discipline problems, taking roll, talking a little bit too much," said Paul Rosengard, SPARK's executive director. "And we would like to see the kids moving a lot more."

Everyone Plays, No One's Last-Picked Breaking the class into small groups, providing enough equipment for everyone and playing games where no one is picked last are some of the goals of SPARK, which has reached out to more than 1 million students nationwide, including the children at Everett Elementary School in Everett, Pa.

"In old PE I was the last picked," said 10-year-old Trevon Ward, a fifth grader at Everett Elementary. "It was boring because I would have to sit and watch them. And then when I did get picked, it was only a short time of playing and it wasn't that fun. [Now] it's really fun because we all get to play together."

Everett superintendent Rodney Green implemented SPARK after a 2003 survey revealed that students in his district had the highest percentage of body fat in the county. Twenty six percent of students were overweight while 18 percent were at risk. It didn't take long for Green to connect the dots between poor PE and students' health.

"PE before SPARK really was a more traditional approach on a very limited basis, but SPARK added a whole menu that we didn't have available to us before," Green said.

Now trained in the SPARK technique, Everett physical education teacher Karen Pittman visits each of the four elementary schools in the district weekly, impacting more than 900 students. Several classroom teachers also got trained in the SPARK technique, so PE could be integrated throughout the school day.

Everett's SPARK-influenced PE class lasts 30 minutes and consists of two parts: a health-fitness activity, like aerobic dance, and a skill-fitness activity, like basketball.

"I'm still doing the same sports that I did four years ago," Pittman said. "It's just a different way of approaching these games. It's more inclusive. There's complete activity during the whole 30 minutes; there's no standing around."

The age-appropriate physical activity is specially designed to boost heart rates, strengthen muscles and build endurance, and Pittman does it all without making the students compete against each other. They don't pick teams, and everyone always gets to play.

In addition to getting kids moving, SPARK focuses on children as a whole - not just on their physical health - by teaching life skills. In a SPARK PE class, kids may learn new ways to set goals, make decisions and solve problems. And they get extra points for taking the message home and being active with family members.

Does More Time Playing Equal Lower Test Scores? Not everyone is a fan of the SPARK method.

Some parents may worry that spending more time on physical fitness leaves less time for kids to hit the books. Teachers and administrators fear that more PE classes will prevent students' meeting the standards of No Child Left Behind.

But according to a study published in Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, spending more time on physical education had no effect on standardized test scores.

Researchers split 754 fourth graders into two groups - one got PE the SPARK way, and one got traditional PE - and tracked them for two years.

Though children in the SPARK group spent twice as much time doing physical activities, their scores on academic achievement tests administered before and after the study were the same as the non-SPARK group.

Other research has shown that improved physical activity boosts children's self esteem and school performance. A recent study of more than 200,000 middle school students found that test scores in math and language arts improved as physical fitness levels increased.

"Lower hypertension, lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, releasing of endorphins in the brain-all of these things, including the higher energy levels and greater levels of sleep that result from being physically active, add up," Rosengard said. "And the cumulative effect is that healthy kids are better learners."

Good for Kids, Good for the Community When kids are excited about PE, their enthusiasm spills over into their families and out to their community.

"The children are becoming really PE evangelists," Everett Superintendent Green said. "They're going home, they're telling their families about these fun activities."

"SPARK is a great program for our family," said Tracy Koontz, mother of three children, two of whom took SPARK PE at Everett Elementary. "We've seen a lot of positive changes come, especially in our daughter. She was so quiet, and now she's very outgoing. And our son loves it-he just thinks he can take on the world."

"I think SPARK is a great gym program for our school," said 8-year-old Joseph Koontz, a second grader at Everett Elementary. "It helps you body and all, and it gets you really active, too."

The town has taken notice. A new health club just opened in Everett, and a Bike-the-Trails project is in the works. According to Green, Everett's Chamber of Commerce now focuses on including exercise and recreation in its tourism efforts.

By Kelly Bothum The News Journal- Wilmington, Delaware November 7, 2006

Good health starts early

Parents can guide even the youngest to good habits Wendy Velázquez is only 3 years old, but already she's tried more fruits and vegetables than many adults. Wendy and her fellow preschoolers at the Telamon Head Start site in Georgetown regularly chomp on green peppers and carrots at snack time. They've sampled the sweetness of ripe plantains, the tang of red onions and the fleshy insides of pumpkins.

The abundance of fruits and veggies isn't just for novelty. At Telamon, there's a strong push not only to introduce children to a variety of foods, but also to teach them that healthy choices can taste good, said Doris Gonzalez, director of the Telamon Sussex County Head Start program, which serves 234 children in five sites across the county. In addition to eating well, kids are encouraged both inside and outside the classroom to move their bodies, whether it's running on the playground or acting out the books they read at story time.

There's good reason to start early. Childhood obesity has become an epidemic, and more children are being diagnosed with health problems such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and sleep apnea, conditions once considered hallmarks of old age. Since the 1970s, the prevalence of obesity in the United States has more than doubled for preschool children ages 2 to 5 and more than tripled for children 6 to 11, according to a report on the topic issued by the Institute of Medicine.

It's global, but it's local, too. A study of Delaware children seen by physicians affiliated with Nemours found that 30 percent of children 2 to 5 are overweight or at risk of being overweight.

The current buzz about childhood obesity isn't just about kids needing to lose a few pounds. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine last year found that childhood obesity could shorten the average life span of this generation of American children by as much as five years if significant changes aren't made. But, too often, the focus of anti-obesity programs is aimed at school-age kids, leaving younger kids -- whose eating habits and lifestyles may be more malleable -- out of the discussion.

Last year, Telamon in Georgetown became one of four pilot sites in the state for a Nemours Health & Prevention Services program aimed at preventing childhood obesity. The program's goals include increasing opportunities for structured physical activity, eating fruits and vegetables and involving families in healthy eating and exercise. Results from the pilot programs will be used to begin a child-care improvement program next year that will be expanded to 50 sites in the state.

Telamon's participation with the Nemours project became a catalyst for change throughout the day care, Gonzalez said. Soda machines were removed from the teachers' area. Water and fruit replaced soda and cookies at staff meetings. Teachers began eating the same foods as the kids to better model good eating habits.

"We're creating an environment where kids are encouraged to eat their veggies," Gonzalez said, noting that about 80 percent of the children who attend the center are Hispanic. "But we're just a small group of children. This message needs to go across the community."

Starting right University of Delaware professor Martha Buell likes to say it takes 1,000 days -- just less than 3 years -- to build a baby's brain. In terms of neural development, those first years are crucial, said Buell, an associate professor in the department of individual and family studies. That's the time when babies need to be talked to and responded to so they can learn to interact with others.

A similar argument can be made for establishing good eating and exercise habits. Mothers can start during their pregnancy by eating a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and lean meats. They can continue by breastfeeding their children until age 1. When starting infants on solids, they can choose organic or whole-grain products and avoid filling baby bottles with juice, which Buell calls "the precursor to soda."

They also can show children the benefits of an active lifestyle by bypassing the television in favor of the outdoors even when the weather isn't great.

"Watching TV, just passively being engaged, sets up a really bad habit," Buell said. "We're squelching their natural impulse to interact with the world and master their world."

What it comes down to, experts say, is parental choice. They can show their children the benefits of eating well and moving around, or they can hope they learn it on their own. But if parents are sitting in front of the TV every night and gorging on junk food, it's a good bet their kids are going to do the same.

"Parents need to decide what kind of parent they're going to be. Are we going to be a family that eats together, that is active, that tries not to have soda in the house?" asked Elizabeth Walker, a policy analyst with Nemours Health & Prevention Services. "You are their biggest teacher at this age."

Modeling good behavior If eating well can be taught, the kids in Jaime Romer's preschool classroom at Telamon in Georgetown are learning plenty. Each week they talk about a different fruit or vegetable, noting its color, its shape and its taste. Romer also sends home recipes that incorporate the food. Carrots, squash, zucchini, potatoes and peppers all have been featured at the center.

On Fridays, all the classes visit the "produce stand" -- a table of fresh fruits and vegetables set up in an empty spot in the center. Each child gets a paper lunch bag and the chance to choose one fruit or vegetable to take home. The produce stand was developed with help from food service manager Jeanette McMillion, who stocks the stand weekly with a variety of fruits and vegetables, including onions, sweet potatoes, pears, oranges and apples. Not surprisingly, the produce stand is a weekly highlight for kids, who proudly tote their perishables home to their parents.

Each day at lunch, teachers like Romer sit with their young students and eat what they eat. On a recent Friday, the class munched on fish sticks, sliced carrots, a dinner roll and half a banana. Each child drank 2 percent milk. Preschoolers served themselves family-style -- although portion sizes are already allotted -- and used plastic forks, spoons and even knives to eat their meals. Music about fruits and vegetables played on a small stereo.

As she ate, Romer noticed some of her kids were leaving their carrots untouched on their plates. She scooped an extra serving of the vegetable onto her plastic plate and grabbed her utensils.

"Get a carrot. Put it on your fork like me," she told the table of preschoolers sitting with her. They obliged, stabbing their vegetables with plastic forks.

"You guys ready?" she asked, her fork inches from her mouth.

She took a bite. Her tablemates did the same.

"Mmmmm," Romer said.

The kids giggled, but they soon followed her lead, including Wendy Velázquez, who proudly showed her teacher a mouthful of carrots as proof she was eating them.

Gonzalez said most of the teachers at Telamon have embraced the healthy changes, including the elimination of all television. She admits it can be an adjustment for some teachers who are used to having kids sit quietly at circle time. Instead of sitting down, teachers now encourage them to move around and act out the parts while reading the book.

"We changed the whole dynamic here," she said. "We're not just doing this for the kids. We're doing it for the teachers and parents, too."

Running around At St. Michael's School and Nursery in Wilmington, cold weather is no excuse for staying indoors.

Kids at the school -- which goes up to kindergarten -- try to make two 30-minute trips daily outside all year long, said Helen Riley, St. Michael's executive director. Physical activity is heavily emphasized at the Episcopal school, and it will become even more important when a full-time physical-education teacher begins this week.

The school is another pilot site for the Nemours program. Nutrition always has been a cornerstone of the school's vision, but since working with Nemours it has increased its focus on healthy eating and getting a variety of physical activity.

The school recently bought a curriculum for a physical education program called SPARK -- Sports, Play & Active Recreation for Kids -- that encourages children to exercise in a fun way that increases gross motor development and social activity. The expectation isn't to wear kids out but to teach them that exercise feels good.

"The whole thing with SPARK is to get children moving their bodies," Riley said. "I don't think it's normal or healthy for children to be still."

Riley said teachers at St. Michael's look for ways to integrate other areas of the curriculum into physical activity. If kids are doing jumping jacks, for example, a teacher might ask them to count by 5's or count to 20. If they're playing indoors because the weather is rainy, they play hopscotch or similar games with numbered tiles to help learn number recognition.

Kickball and jumping jacks are familiar activities that teach little kids how to move their bodies. Preschool yoga, on the other hand, is a little more unusual. The gentle movements are a great way for children to learn self-discipline and control, Riley said.

St. Michael's offers yoga twice a week at school. The children learn breathing techniques and stretching exercises that they wouldn't learn doing more traditional physical activity.

"We use yoga to teach children to become body aware," Riley said. "It teaches children that there are a variety of ways to exercise."

St. Michael's also hosts after-hours events aimed at getting kids and their parents moving. A recent roller-skating night drew more than 130 people. Monthly parent meetings also end with healthy family-style dinners, another attempt to thread good nutrition into the school culture.

The benefit of these programs is twofold, Riley said.

"It helps families do lots of things that are good for them," Riley said. "And there are social interactions with other families. That's a tremendous payoff -- developing a great school community."

Contact Kelly Bothum at 324-2962 or kbothum@delawareonline.com.

PRENATAL Most moms-to-be know this is an important time to eat well. But sometimes that's easier said than done. Many women feel ill during their first trimester and can't stomach some of the foods they once loved. Then there are the cravings, usually for foods that aren't nutritionally sound.

Even with those challenges, there are some things pregnant women can do, said Elizabeth Walker, policy analyst for Nemours Health & Prevention Services. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Don't smoke or drink. Get regular prenatal care. And take your prenatal vitamins since your body needs more of those essential nutrients than it did before you were pregnant.

Remember that, although you're pregnant, it's not an excuse to eat anything you want. Pregnant women need only about 300 calories more a day while they're carrying a baby. Anything else and you're just eating extra calories, which usually translates into unnecessary weight gain.

And stay active. Walking is a low-pressure activity that's good for baby and mom. It also can reduce pregnancy-related symptoms such as back pain, swelling and difficulty sleeping.

BIRTH TO AGE 1 Breastfeeding is the best choice a mother can make for her child because it provides all the needed nutrients and antibodies naturally, Walker said. It also gives the baby the control over how much food he wants.

Unlike formula, breast milk changes all the time, based on the mother's diet. As a result, babies are exposed to different flavors in the milk. That variety can later open them up to trying more foods when they begin to eat solids, said Martha Buell, a University of Delaware professor in the department of individual and family studies.

If parents do feed their babies formula, they need to be watchful of their hunger cues, said Dorothy Onn, senior program and policy analyst for Nemours Health & Prevention Services. Not every cry is a sign they want to eat. Similarly, it's OK if a baby doesn't finish the bottle.

Be persistent when introducing new foods to babies, Walker said, noting that babies have an affinity for foods that are salty and sweet. It may take up to 20 tries before a baby likes a particular food.

Chubby babies used to be seen as the ultimate symbol of health, Onn said. That's not the case anymore. Overfeeding them can set up a lifetime of health problems, including obesity.

AGES 1 TO 2 Now that they're moving and talking a bit, kids this age are ripe to try new things. That makes it a perfect time to get them used to running, jumping and playing -- any kind of activity that gets them moving their little bodies.

Take the kids outside even if it's winter, Walker said. You don't have to stay out for an hour; a few minutes can burn some energy and get them moving. More importantly, she said, it sets up the habit of being active.

Try to get the family to eat dinner together at least a couple times a week. Parents are the biggest role models when it comes to reinforcing good habits. If they see you eat your peas, they're more likely to do the same.

If your children are in day care, Walker said, ask your child-care provider what's being done to make sure kids are eating right and staying active. Do the kids watch TV? Do they go outside when it's cold? Do teachers eat unhealthy foods and beverages like soda in front of the students? What kind of foods are served for snack?

"Parents don't realize just how inactive their kids are during the day," Walker said.

AGES 3 TO 5 This is the age when little kids can be quite particular about what they're eating. They don't like to try unfamiliar foods, and they can easily get stuck in a food rut, eating the same things over and over.

Walker suggests parents let their kids help them cook as a way to engage them. At this age, children can stir, tear lettuce and measure some ingredients. Since they helped fix dinner, they may be more likely to eat it themselves.

One piece of advice from Onn: Don't become a short-order cook. If your kids won't eat the food that's in front of them, don't offer something else.

At the dinner table, portion control also is important. Give children smaller plates than the adults and when serving food, start with a tablespoon. If they want more, they can have it.

"Little tummies need smaller amounts of food," Walker said. "We need to emphasize to parents it's OK if they don't finish everything. And if they're not hungry, that's OK, too."

The key is to make dinner fun. If kids are picking at their vegetables, have a crunching contest to see who can crunch the loudest. If drumsticks are on the menu, tell your kids they're dinosaur bones. Give them stickers for trying new foods.

"The idea is positive encouragement," Walker said.

By Jennifer Brady GuidanceChannel.com of Sunburst Visual Media November 8, 2006

An Interview With Mr. Paul Rosengard of the SPARK Program

GuidanceChannel.com: With the current emphasis on standardized testing, many schools are cutting back on physical education. Do you believe that this is contributing to climbing obesity levels in today's youth?

Paul Rosengard: I'd like to answer that question in two parts. First of all, there is a myth that emphasizing standardized testing and academic achievement is contrary to physical activity and physical education. However, the truth is that the two go hand in hand. In a paper published in Research Quarterly of June 1999, we compared kids who participated in our SPARK physical education program to kids who did not and looked at their standardized test scores over a three-year period of time. The kids who had SPARK physical education taught by classroom teachers doubled their PE (physical education) dose -- so they had more than twice as much time out of the classroom as the kids that we compared them against. Yet their standardized test scores were the same or better over the three-year period! Other students PE specialists tripled the dose of PE compared to the controls and, despite 300% more time out of the classroom, they did as well on their standardized test scores. So I think we need to make sure we understand that physical activity and academic achievement are not mutually exclusive.

The second part of my answer relates to climbing obesity levels. The obesity issue today is a multi-headed monster. There are many, many factors--environmental, community, behavior--that influence obesity levels. Physical education is one--and we know from research that it is one that can have a positive impact on the physical activity levels of children. So, in terms of physical education contributing to kids burning more calories, cutting back on that dosage is certainly going to play a factor in overweight and obese kids.

GuidanceChannel.com: How would you try to convince schools to make time for physical education?

Mr. Rosengard: It's an argument that we present a lot. One of the first steps is letting schools know that that they should not feel like they're sacrificing academics for more time in PE. In fact, the data shows just the opposite. The second step is pointing out that additional data shows that healthy children are better learners. They have more energy, they sleep better, and the endorphins in their brain are released when they are physically active. They have greater levels of self-esteem and self-confidence, and are more likely to have a positive self-image. Many of these things either directly or indirectly contribute to learning and the ability to learn. Physical education not only helps kids' physical health, but it has a strong effect on their mental and social health, as well.

GuidanceChannel.com: What is the SPARK program and how does it address the issue of childhood obesity?

Mr. Rosengard: We are a research-based physical education and physical activity program that improves the quantity and quality of physical education. SPARK increases moderate to vigorous physical activity to up to over fifty percent of class time, which aligns with the Healthy People Goals 2010 objective for the nation. Because SPARK has been shown to do that, physical fitness levels in kids improve and their sport skills have improved. Their activity level away from school and enjoyment of physical education improve, as well.

SPARK is also well-known for training teachers to be more effective leaders. We help them learn how to instruct more effectively so they teach physical education or physical activities with more of a public health approach. We train them on how to improve their quantity and quality of instruction. This allows them to spend less time managing students, so they can spend more time getting kids engaged in health-promoting activities and making classes more inclusive and fun.

SPARK's Lifelong Wellness program uses what we know has been effective in behavior change and applies it to children in ways that are developmentally appropriate. It is specifically designed to teach kids the skills they need to be in charge of their own activity programs away from school. For example, every child has an "Activity Diary" where they write down everything they do for the week in terms of physical activity away from school. They then learn how to set goals to add more physical activity into their week. Other parts of the program focus on nutrition, reducing time watching television and playing video games, and teaching kids how to schedule time to be active. By getting kids to be more active away from school and changing their behavior related to food intake and food choices, you cover both sides of the obesity equation -- calories in and calories out.

GuidanceChannel.com: How exactly does SPARK differ from traditional physical education classes?

Mr. Rosengard: The truth is that there are many examples of outstanding physical education all over the country - there's just not enough of them.

SPARK classes differ because they are more inclusive. Within an activity in a class there are different levels of participation. Children have more choices; our program incorporates student-directed learning. It allows kids to do things that they want to do in ways and at levels that they want to do it. That is one big difference in SPARK.

Another difference is that we modify traditional sports, such as softball or soccer--sometimes to the point where you'd hardly recognize the game anymore. For example, in a traditional softball game you'll find one child up to bat, the most skilled kids playing shortstop and first base, and the other kids scattered in positions that may not touch the ball for several days. In the SPARK version, we've created a mini-game where kids throw, catch, bat, and run much more often. They get to actually touch the ball and are involved in every single play. There's nobody out in right field hoping the ball comes to him.

Modifying content and interjecting our instructional strategies improves what is being taught and how it is taught - and that's what makes SPARK different.

GuidanceChannel.com: Can you tell me more about the research on the program's effectiveness?

Mr. Rosengard: SPARK offers a menu of programs to choose from. Our first program was for elementary physical education. In a major national benchmark study we demonstrated that this program raised moderate to vigorous physical activity, physical fitness, sport skills, academic achievement, activity levels away from school, and enjoyment of PE. Our middle school study, called MSPAN (Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition), was an environmental change study where we tried to increase moderate to vigorous physical activity in middle school PE classes and decrease the consumption of fat during the school day. While we were not able to significantly reduce the consumption of fat during the school day, the physical education part was very successful. We increased MVPA (moderate to vigorous activity) to almost twenty percent. By changing the way teachers instructed, they increased their MVPA almost five minutes per typical thirty-five minute class-without increasing the frequency and duration of PE classes. That's a major change! We have done other studies in afterschool programs, in pre-k, and early childhood, and they've all had different outcomes. But generally speaking, if it's a SPARK program, it increases physical activity time and that in itself is a very positive thing.

GuidanceChannel.com: Is SPARK intended just for schools or can it be implemented in other settings?

Mr. Rosengard: It can be implemented in a variety of settings. As I said, SPARK offers a full menu of programs. Our Pre-K program's audience includes Head Starts, WICC (Women, Infants and Children's Centers), as well as public and private day care centers. The elementary, middle, and high school physical education programs are all school-based, but then we have an afterschool program that is targeted to Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, parks and recreation programs--for any environment where after school physical activity might occur.

GuidanceChannel.com: Some kids just don't believe that they're athletic. How does SPARK engage these types of students?

Mr. Rosengard: That's a great question--in fact, I just wrote an article on that the other day! Athletics are not physical education. Athletics involve getting advanced coaching and competing on a team. It's fine that a lot of kids are not interested in competing in team sports. Many are more interested in individual sports. It's wonderful living in 2006 because there are so many different kinds of exciting individual sports that can attract children and adolescents, like hip-hop aerobics, kayaking, and rock climbing. I encourage parents, teachers, and schools to find out what kids would like to do for physical activity and then help them do it. Be an enabler; don't be a barrier maker! There are already plenty of barriers to kids being physically active. With so many great choices, almost every child will be able to find a physical activity that he or she can enjoy. SPARK engages kids in trying different activities by prompting teachers to offer more choices to them--whether it's in school or after school.

Through our sponsor, Sportime, we also offer different creative, innovative pieces of equipment that are softer, safer and smaller. Sometimes kids don't want to play volleyball just because that regulation volleyball really stings their arms when they pass it. But using a larger, softer ball makes it easier to hit and it doesn't hurt. Often times, when we are working with teachers and look at the equipment they are using, we find that it's too big, too small or too hard. We help teachers to address this by working with Sportime, as they manufacture and sell a lot of kid-friendly equipment. We find that getting the right equipment removes another barrier for some of the kids who may not want to participate.

Another way to engage kids it to simply make the activity fun. Think about it from a kid's point of view. Does physical education look more like boot camp or does it look more like an opportunity for me to play with my friends? Will I have choices about what I do? Will I be able to experiment with different kinds of objects and learn how to manipulate them? Will it give me a chance to learn how to do things in small groups? Will I be able to play without being the one striking out in front of everybody else in class? Engaging kids doesn't only involve creating an environment that's conducive to physical activity, you need to create an environment that is emotionally safe. That's probably the most important role of any teacher. Most do it pretty well, but some teachers might benefit from a few tips on how to make that environment even more emotionally safe for kids. That is what SPARK does when we work with teachers, youth leaders, and afterschool programs. We give them current content and methodology on how to create these environments. Once they have that, we teach them how to make kids feel successful everyday, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, and previous experiences playing a sport or doing an activity.

GuidanceChannel.com: How does promoting physical activity help students to be successful in life?

Mr. Rosengard: If I have a bad experience and don't feel successful in my PE class because I'm compared to other kids or embarrassed doing an activity, that's going to have a negative effect. On the other hand, if I have been successful in movement environments, I'll want to participate more in movement opportunities. When you feel successful and confident, you'll want to do even more physical activity, not less--then it becomes a lifelong pursuit. We need to make that the goal of every physical activity kids experience with us because we only work with them for small periods of time in their life. We need to think about how we can set them up so that they can continue to be healthy adults. That really is what SPARK is all about, getting kids more active now and teaching them skills to be active the rest of their lives.

EDITOR'S NOTE To learn more about SPARK, you can visit the program's website at SparkPE.org. There you'll find sample lesson plans, publications, journals, and much, much more!

ABOUT MR. PAUL ROSENGARD Mr. Rosengard is the Executive Director of the SPARK Programs of San Diego State University (also a division of Sportime, LLC) and he instructs future teachers at the University of California, at San Diego where he is a 10-year faculty member. Mr. Rosengard is known for his extensive work as a physical activity interventionist, having contributed as an intervention director, consultant and trainer for a number of benchmark national studies/projects including SPARK, TAAG, M-SPAN, Pathways, PEACH, OPprA, OPI, POPI, and the Nike2GO campaigns. Mr. Rosengard was appointed the first Deputy Director of the CA Governor's Council of Physical Fitness and Sports (1996) and served as a key member on the education committee for many years. He was selected as one of 20 Special Advisors to the new Governor's Council in the current administration. Mr. Rosengard is nationally known for his creative writing and innovative pedagogical methods, which have been proven effective in improving physical activity programs, teacher effectiveness, and student outcomes. To date, he has over 25 publications in professional journals, has authored or co-authored 15 curriculum books for teachers, and conducted more than 350 professional workshops and conference presentations worldwide, many as a featured or keynote speaker.

PRNewswire- New York, New York November 14, 2006

NikeGO Head Start Make Gains in Reducing Childhood Obesity After Eight Cities in Two Years, Program Reaching Young Children Plans to Expand to 12 Cities in Upcoming Year

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Nov. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- The first-of-its-kind initiative to get kids physically active starting at a young age, NikeGO Head Start -- a partnership between Nike and the National Head Start Association (NHSA) along with SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) -- is scoring big points: In its first two years, NikeGO Head Start trained 320 teachers in eight cities reaching a estimated 30,000 Head Start preschoolers.

Now, NikeGO Head Start is expanding to another 12 cities. The program currently operates in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Orlando, Anchorage, Memphis, and Portland. The additional 12 cities are being selected primarily based on the prevalence of childhood obesity among preschoolers.

The initiative builds on a seven-year relationship between Nike and the National Head Start Association. Currently the largest private funder of NHSA, Nike is issuing a series of one-year grants, with specific performance requirements, totaling $2.5 million over five years.

"As childhood obesity continues to rise, we are compelled to continue to provide opportunities like the NikeGO Head Start partnership to enhance children's love for physical activity, especially at an early age," said Craig Cheek, Vice President & General Manager of the US Region, Nike. "By increasing the number of cities that offer the NikeGO Head Start program, we can increase the number of children, parents and families who make physical activity a regular part of their lives and help prevent sedentary lifestyles before they ever take hold."

NHSA President and CEO Sarah Greene said: "Childhood obesity has been a growing problem in our country over the past few years. The best time to reach these children and their parents is when they are young so they can learn the importance of physical activity so it will become part of their lifestyle as they grow. Head Start always has been focused on the entire family, not just the kids, as an important component of their education and development. The NikeGO Head Start Initiative teaches parents along with their kids so physical activity becomes a family thing."

NikeGO Head Start understands how parents can play a critical role in raising healthy children and provides them with the resources to replicate the program's activities in the home. In addition to receiving the Playbook and SPARK training, participating Head Start sites will receive Nike donated equipment necessary to implement the program -- including parachutes, easy-to- catch balls, beanbags and balance beams. Head Start instructors receive a "playbook" of activities that are fun, inclusive, and developmentally appropriate and aligned with Head Start Child Outcomes. Parents and children learn how ordinary objects like socks and scarves can be used for movement and physical activity.

ABOUT NHSA The National Head Start Association (http://www.nhsa.org) is a private not-for-profit membership organization dedicated exclusively to meeting the needs of Head Start children and their families. It represents more than 1 million children, 200,000 staff and 2,600 Head Start programs in the United States. The Association provides support for the entire Head Start community by advocating for policies that strengthen services to Head Start children and their families; by providing extensive training and professional development to Head Start staff; and by developing and disseminating research, information, and resources that enrich Head Start program delivery.

ABOUT NIKEGO NikeGO is Nike's signature U.S. community affairs initiative and the company's long-term commitment to getting kids more physically active. The program's mission is to increase physical activity in youths, offering them the support and motivation to become physically active, stay healthy and have fun. In its most recent fiscal year, Nike contributed more than $10.5 million in cash and products and served more than 150,000 kids through its programs and partnerships. Visit http://www.nikego.com for additional information.

ABOUT SPARK SPARK is a research-based physical activity program dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote lifelong wellness. Visit SPARKpe.org or call 1-800SPARKPE for more information.

________________________________________ Source: National Head Start Association, Alexandria, VA; Nike, Seattle, WA