We’re just past the halfway mark for the school year and for students participating in the STAR (School Telemedicine in Arkansas) grant. That means prizes for hard-working students who have been participating in our weekly challenges.
In January, the STAR team visited the schools to see how things were going and presented logoed water bottles to participants who had completed more than half of the challenges.
“Given the nature of telehealth, so much of what we do on a day-to-day basis is done remotely. There are few things more enjoyable than being able to visit the students in their individual schools and see the energy and enthusiasm that they have about living a healthy lifestyle!,” said Nathan King, UAMS STAR Education Coordinator.
The HealthyNOW! Program is designed to encourage kids from 5th through 8th grades to live a healthy lifestyle by teaching them simple exercises and healthy eating habits. Currently, there are more than 1,500 students enrolled in the program in four school districts covering seven school campuses.
For students who want to raise their education to a higher level, the program also offers one-on-one counseling via telemedicine with an exercise science graduate student from the University of Central Arkansas and a registered dietitian from UAMS to learn modifications to the exercises and healthier ways of preparing and buying food.
“This program has been a huge asset to our kids,” said Melissa Henderson, Jasper School-Based Health Center Coordinator. “Some of them are on their own when it comes to preparing their meals, and this program has helped teach them how to make healthier choices at home. In addition to the healthier cooking, they are developing mentor relationships with the coaches and we’re seeing a boost in their self-esteem.”
The HealthyNOW! Program is part of the STAR grant and was piloted in the Magazine School District last year. Fifty-one percent of the students participating in the pilot program last year reduced their overall body mass index (BMI).
“While the program’s goal is to get the kids to live a healthier lifestyle, it’s an added benefit to get to see them get so excited about a program and see how committed they are,” said Tina Pilgreen, Education Coordinator for the UAMS Star Program. “Recess and physical activity have diminished over the years in public schools. This program proves that kids want to be engaged in physical activities, which in turn has resulted in reduced BMIs and improvements in overall health. I’m blown away every time I visit and see how well they are doing and amazed that these kids are asking for more challenges at a higher difficulty level.”
HealthyNOW will be tracking the progress of the students throughout the remainder of the school year. The classes with the highest participation at each school will earn a smoothie social. For more information on the program visit www.go.uams.edu/star