Owasso Community Program Supports Healthy Habits
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Since 1963 the childhood obesity rate has tripled. According to the American Heart Association, now more than one in three children in America is overweight. It’s not a matter of a few extra pounds, nor is it about fat-shaming children. Children and teenagers who carry more weight than what is healthy are at risk for heart disease, diabetes and other issues such as low self-esteem. Research also shows that more than 50 percent of parents don’t realize that their children are obese. Last year, in an effort to bring community-wide awareness, Bailey Medical Center in Owasso resolved to find some solutions. The staff wanted to encourage children to exercise and to make healthy choices, even when eating out. The PLAY program was launched in January.
David Steward, health and wellness coordinator at Bailey Medical Center began a series of conversations with area leaders. He said, “We have dieticians and exercise programs. How can we share this with our community?” First, he spoke with hospital staff. Next, he visited with all eight Owasso elementary schools, and finally, he began visiting with local fast food chain restaurants. The program recognizes the reality that many families dine at fast food restaurants, and that children often look to professional athletes as heroes and role models.
Steward’s main goals in developing the plan were to expose children to good eating habits and to encourage families to discuss healthy choices and to be active together. As he brainstormed, Jeff Paul at Smith Elementary suggested the Passport idea, which originated in rewarding students for reading books. Now the passports are being used to encourage healthy eating and exercise. Each student enrolled in an Owasso elementary school now has a Passport to PLAY, a booklet containing eating and exercise tips for elementary-aged students. Each time a student orders a healthy choice from a participating restaurant, he or she earns a sticker to place in the passport. Stickers can be obtained from Chick Fil A, McDonald’s, Red Robin, Chili’s, Wendy’s, Akira and McAlister’s in Owasso. Upon earning 30 stickers, Steward said, “They win two free or discounted tickets for games. The Tulsa Shock, Revolution, Oilers, Drillers, Athletics and Defenders are all involved.”