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Children Engage in 'Better My Identity' Activities to Improve Nutrition, Fitness

13 September 2012 No Comment

Borczak (center) in "tree" pose with HSCT students (Photo by Ed Fishel).


Nearly 40 children learned about safety, nutrition, and wellness and had fun exercising—trying out yoga and Zumba—during a health fair conducted by students and faculty from the schools of medicine and social work.

Held at Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (HSCT) Elementary School, the fair drew children between the ages of 4 and 12 who live in the surrounding community of Upton/Druid Heights, which is served by Promise Heights. A School of Social Work-led initiative, Promise Heights is comprised of several schools at the University that collaborate with public, private, and faith-based partners to improve families’ lives.

Yvette Rooks, MD, CAQ, FAAFP, assistant professor of family and community medicine at the School of Medicine, several family medicine residents, and a medical student offered fair-goers the Better My Identity program—a nutrition and fitness initiative of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Through a grant funded by the American Academy of Family Medicine and the Americans in Motion-Healthy Interventions (AIM-HI), the program aims to combat pediatric obesity. The grant was awarded to the medical school’s Family and Community Medicine Residency Program in 2011.

“Better My Identity has been a vital addition to our residency training program as our residents are now equipped with the tools to educate children of our practice about wellness with a focus on nutrition and physical activity,” said Rooks, director of the residency program. “Our Saturday morning program has been a great success, and the children and parents who have participated are making great healthy changes in their lives.”

Upon arrival at HSCT Elementary School, each child received a “passport” and set out to fill in the blanks with personal health information such as body mass index and blood pressure by visiting the health care providers at the fair. The children acquired stickers on their passports by engaging in activities intended to help them get fit, keep safe, and stay well. They learned about nutrition in a section where playing with your food was not against the rules, and also learned proper handwashing techniques.

 In the yoga classroom, instructor Emily Borczak demonstrated several poses intended to help children improve their balance. The skills left an impression on Autumn Atkinson, 4, who was accompanied by her father, Mark Atkinson. “Do you want to see me do the tree pose?” she asked him, standing on one foot. 

Zumba, an aerobic dance, drew the most festive crowd, as youngsters exercised to music, led by Tisha Guthrie, MSW ’11, an instructor at URecFit, who was involved in the University’s Childhood Obesity Summit in November 2011.

Many of the youngsters have been attending summer activities at HSCT, which is a partner in the Promise Heights initiative. Candace Baker, MSW ’11, Community Resource Schools site coordinator at HSCT, was among the fair’s organizers. Others from the School of Social Work were student Liz Buchanan; Rachel Donegan, JD, MSW, Promise Heights programs coordinator; and Gillian Gregory, MSW, LGSW, Community Resource Schools site coordinator for F.L. Templeton Preparatory Academy.

Representing the medical school were Charlotte Watts, a fourth-year student; Marshala Lee, MD, and Chelsea Cosby, MD, family and community medicine second-year residents who helped develop the Better My Identity program; and Andreas Mitchell, a senior at Washington University in St. Louis and summer community medicine intern working with Rooks.

The Baltimore City Health Department and B’more for Healthy Babies also were represented. 

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