Children, Healthy Futures
By Matilda Raffa Cuomo& B.J. Carter
enable children to have a successful school education, there must
be an active partnership with the home, school and the community.
A child’s life is centered for most of the day in the school environment.
Those children who are at-risk of failing their subjects, dropping
out of high school, or have unhealthy eating habits with no exercise,
need to have a mentor as soon as possible to give them added support,
guidance, and encouragement.
The community has a responsibility to respond to the needs of
children. We know that public awareness and concentration to improve
our children’s health is strongly needed in these turbulent times.
All of us should be concerned about children’s health and address
the issue of overweight and obesity.
In 2001, Strang Cancer Prevention Center, the oldest cancer prevention
institute in the United States, partnered with Mentoring USA,
the largest site-based program in New York City and the first
mentoring program providing mentors for foster care youth. Strang
and Mentoring USA joined forces with the MetLife Foundation and
are currently implementing Healthy Children Healthy Futures, an
initiative intended for underserved young people, ages 9-12, in
three of our country’s larger urban areas–Atlanta, Los Angeles,
and New York City. In addition to the program materials for facilitators
and children, a training manual was developed by Mentoring USA
and used in the training program for the program site facilitators
this past summer. The initiative provides children in ten after-school
settings with the opportunity to learn about healthy eating and
physical activity and motivate them to create compelling messages
to encourage their peers to do the same. These health messages
by and for children and in the format of posters, billboards,
radio, TV and/or internet spots, will be reviewed by peers and
then disseminated to other children through a variety of school-based
and community-based (CBO) networks.
There are many additional factors that may make urban children
at increased risk for obesity. Fewer children in central cities
participate in sports and physical activities than those who live
outside of central cities. According to a report by the U.S. Census
Bureau, 26.3 percent of children aged 6-11 years old living in
central cities participate in sports as compared to 39.6 percent
outside central cities and 33.5 percent in non-metropolitan areas.
Concerns about crime may be a major barrier to becoming more physically
active for some children. Parents of color are twice as likely
to report their neighborhoods as unsafe, and parents who have
a lower opinion of their neighborhood are less likely to have
their children participate in sports.
In reality, a majority of Americans are not regularly active,
and there has been a rapid increase in prevalence of overweight
and obesity among the U.S. population, particularly among children.
This is a major public health problem, particularly because of
its persistence into adulthood.
Last year, former Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, in his “Call
to Action” urged communities and schools to join forces to provide
programs to improve physical activity and provide healthy food
alternatives. That is just what Healthy Children Healthy Futures
Cuomo is Founder and Chair, Mentoring USA. B.J. Carter is Director
of the Child Health Initiative at Strang Cancer Prevention Center.
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: email@example.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express
consent of the publisher. © 2002.