FMC makes $1 million commitment to new programs aimed at promoting health and wellness in FUSD elementary schools
Flagstaff Medical Center (FMC) and Fit Kids of Arizona have made an unprecedented commitment to the community to promote health and wellness in Flagstaff’s elementary schools. FMC’s Board of Directors recently approved $1 million in funding to help the district provide a more coordinated approach to physical activity and wellness programs. The funds will directly impact the health of approximately 5,000 elementary school age children enrolled in FUSD’s elementary schools.
“We are extremely grateful to FMC for their generosity and to Fit Kids for their support and guidance,” said Barbara Hickman, FUSD superintendent. “Schools play a critical role in creating environments that help children develop healthy habits. We recognize the positive association between school-based physical activity and better academic performance among school-aged youth. Because of FMC’s commitment to the community, we will be extending the number of minutes of physical activity to our students. We also will be able to offer our students and families additional resources to encourage physical activity as well as education on how to be more active and make healthy lifestyle choices.”
With the funds from FMC, the school district will have the necessary resources to increase the amount of structured activity time from the current 35 minutes per student each week to more than 50 minutes per student each day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 60 minutes or more per day of physical exercise for children and adults.
Elements of the new program in each elementary school include a dedicated staff member to provide structured activities before school and during recess and lunch breaks; innovative, kid-preferred activity equipment that can be used both inside and outside to encourage physical activity; and the purchase of new active-play, computer-based activity engagement programs that can be used by large groups of participants at one time. Fit Kids staff will work with the school district personnel and school staff to coordinate activities and provide direction for the new program.
“FMC, Fit Kids and FUSD are committed to promoting healthy lifestyles for children and their families,” said Chris Bavasi, FMC Board of Directors chair and member of the FUSD Governing Board. “FMC’s mission is to provide patients with exceptional care while transforming the health of the communities we serve. What better way to do that than by targeting the health of our children? This is a real win-win for everyone because FMC was able to make this financial commitment without a rate increase to our patients.”
Recent data collected by FUSD and Fit Kids shows that more than 30 percent of FUSD elementary students (Kindergarten through 5th grade) are either overweight according to national standards or are at risk of developing weight-related health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint conditions and emotional stress. According to the CDC, more than 17 percent or 12.5 million children in the U.S. age 2 to 19 years old are obese. That number has more than tripled since 1980. The chance that an obese 5-year-old child remains obese as an adult is approximately 50 percent; this increases to more than 80 percent for an obese adolescent.
“When we started Fit Kids of Arizona in 2009, we offered clinics aimed at providing treatment for children who were obese or at-risk for obesity, combined with education for parents and siblings,” said Bert McKinnon, M.D., chair of the Northern Arizona Healthcare Board of Directors and member of the Fit Kids of Arizona Advisory Board. “In 2010, we broadened our focus to include prevention of childhood obesity and overall wellness of kids and their families through school-based education classes, family and community events, and after-school activities. Now, we are taking prevention and wellness one step further by funding activity and wellness programs in our schools. Next year, we hope to partner with the middle schools as well as charter, parochial and other schools in our area. Eventually we plan to help implement similar programs in the high schools.”
Since opening in 2009, more than 1,100 children have been referred to Fit Kids, resulting in nearly 2,000 clinic visits in the Flagstaff location and 1,400 clinic visits in the Verde Valley Location. Additionally, services are offered at Killip Elementary School in Flagstaff, in Camp Verde and plans are underway to open a clinic in Williams. The Fit Kids team is made up of medical, nutritional, fitness and behavioral experts who work on an individual basis to identify concerns and problem-areas, and then guide the participant and family members in setting goals for improvement.
For more information on the Fit Kids of Arizona, call 928 214-3537 or visit FitKidsOfArizona.com.