In the fight against childhood obesity, it’s no mystery that what happens in school is key.
And in Tulsa, no one has embraced this idea quite like the students and staff at Eliot Elementary.
“It was really wonderful. The kids are all looking forward to it,” principal Sharon Holt said of the school’s practice Wednesdays.
Every Wednesday, Eliot’s students come to school in sportswear, she said, ready for a health and fitness day. In addition to recess, Holt said, there’s an effort to make lessons “active.”
“A teacher might have a spelling relay outside, for example, or a hopscotch to demonstrate something in math,” she said.
With Wednesdays serving as a springboard, healthy living has become an essential part of school culture as a whole, Holt said.
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“It’s part of who we are.”
What Eliot has accomplished, however, is not easy. And public health professionals like Corey Love know it.
“School officials are concerned about (nutrition and well-being),” he said. “But they have a lot to do, just fighting for the basics like having teachers in the classroom.”
As a program manager for the Tulsa Health Department’s TSET Healthy Living program, Love works with Tulsa County schools on their nutrition and wellness policies, revises them as needed, and helps update them. implemented.
“We can’t stress politics enough because ultimately that’s how we can create something that’s lasting for years to come,” he said.
Having worked in public health for 17 years, Love is all too aware of the high rates of obesity among Oklahoma children. But he is convinced that the tide will turn.
“Some of these kids see the mistakes their parents made and try to correct them,” he said.
“Each generation is going to be a little bit better than the last,” Love added, “and I think that will be the case here, if we can continue to drive that message forward and be at the forefront.”
At Eliot, this message was taken to heart.
The pandemic has altered the activity, especially when school has gone virtual. But the emphasis remained.
Workout Wednesdays date back to 2017, Holt said, when they were started by a school physical education teacher. The school then used a TSET Healthy Living grant to fund some related improvements.
The opportunities to promote a healthy lifestyle are not limited to Wednesdays, she said, adding that it has become a priority every day at school.
Holt said, “For students who started here and will go to college, they don’t know any differently. And we hope that healthy choices will accompany them.
Love agrees that it’s all about choice.
To make a dent in the state’s childhood obesity problem, “what we need to do is make the healthy choice the easy choice,” he said.