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I was on vacation last week. Before I left, I noticed I was feeling stiff and somewhat lethargic. It’s amazing what a week of chasing three young grand-nieces will do! We stayed active with excursions such as short hikes and playing in the creek. (OK, I confess. I took a nap on the creekside. But I did walk to the creek….) Not only that, but a retreat I attended and the home where I stayed required climbing stairs. Lots of stairs.
When I returned home, I realized my body felt and looked different. I now climb stairs easily. My pants fit better. Hmmm. Perhaps there is something to this exercise thing. I’ve gotten motivated to go to the gym this week and jump on the elliptical. I’ve even worked out on some weight machines. My energy level is increased, plus I’m more mindful of what I’m eating, because I don’t want to lose the calories I’ve burned off.
I’m not alone in focusing on my health. Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at the Maine Medical Center has been recognized by the American Hospital Association for its efforts to increase fitness and fight obesity. The “Let’s Go” program focuses on healthful eating and active living habits for children from birth to age 18. The program takes place in physician offices, childcare centers, schools, workplaces, and community centers. The funding comes from hospitals and health systems, as well as foundations and business.
The top priorities include providing healthy snacks and celebration foods, while limiting unhealthy choices; offering low-fat milk and water instead of sugary beverages; providing rewards that aren’t related to food; offering physical activity every day; and limiting recreational screen time. A “5-2-1-0” message encourages children to have five or more fruits and vegetables each day, two hours or less of recreational screen time, one hour or more of physical activity, and zero sugary drinks.
The program started with 12 physicians. The program is now its eighth year, and three years ago, it was implemented statewide. Now 170 physicians are involved, which covers 80% of the children in the state. Physicians got on board when they were told they simply had to put up a 5-2-1-0 poster in their offices, check body-mass index, and use a questionnaire to guide a family discussion about healthy behaviors. Physicians like it because it can be difficult to talk to young patients about weight, but the “5-2-1-0” message provides an easy way to bring it up. Instead of talking about losing weight, they’re talking about healthy behaviors.
In recognition of its efforts, the AHA awarded Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital with the NOVA Award, which recognizes hospital-led collaborative efforts that attack problems such as obesity and improve community health. We salute the hospital and all of those facilities and providers trying to help Americans get healthier. Sometimes all we need is a little nudge.