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Teaching Teens to Make Healthy Choices

DAYTON, OHIO—June 5, 2008 —A healthy spinach salad or a hamburger and fries for lunch? Most teens would opt for the burger meal. But that’s not the case for 127 teen girls from Dayton’s Thurgood Marshall High School.  They would pick the healthier selection at mealtime thanks to what they have learned by attending a program offered at their school.

Since last September the girls have been attending educational sessions called, “Youth Creating a Healthier Lifestyle” offered through Miami Valley Hospital’s outreach program, Mahogany’s Child and a grant from the Ohio Hospital Association.

“Enrollment in the program was voluntary,” says Frankye Herald, program manger for Mahogany’s Child.  “We started with 154 girls and 127 stayed with the program all school year.”

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 14 percent of the nation’s school children are overweight. This figure has nearly tripled in the last twenty years. That is one reason Herald wanted to work with students to launch a program to teach teens about creating healthier dietary habits. The other reason is that Herald herself, a registered nurse, suffers from heart disease. She has had two heart attacks but has worked diligently to create a healthy lifestyle.

“I wanted to share my experience with the girls so that they can start changing poor dietary habits that can put them at risk for heart disease,” says Herald.

Mahogany’s Child Program coordinators met with the group of teens three times a week. During the very first session each girl was assessed for health risk factors including family history of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Information was also gathered about eating habits and exercise.

“I started the program thinking if I could change just one girl’s life I would be successful but I have changed 127 lives,” says Herald. “I am happy to report all participants have either lost weight, started exercise regiments, or are making healthy eating decisions. Perhaps most importantly each girl is influencing her family to strive toward a healthier lifestyle.”