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Healthy Habits: Children’s Wellness Center promotes healthy habits with new rewards program

Posted: Feb. 1, 2013

Children’s participating in healthy habits program

Habits. They’re hard to break and sometimes harder to make. But setting healthy, achievable goals is a valuable lesson for children to learn.

Teaching children how to evaluate eating and activity habits and make small changes to improve overall well-being helps them learn how important making good food choices and being active are to creating a healthy lifestyle.

That’s why the Children’s Wellness Center (CWC) recently began a healthy habits rewards program for their young patients. According to Catherine McAvoy, public health nurse, the center received a Community Transformation grant of $2,500 from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention Grant Program. With these funds, the center was able to purchase more than 350 pieces of athletic equipment to be awarded to children who successfully complete a healthy eating and activity schedule.

“Our program is based on ‘5-2-1-0, Let’s Go!’ — a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program,” McAvoy said. “The ‘5’ represents incorporating five more fruits and vegetables into their daily diets. The ‘2’ is the number of hours (or less) they should spend on recreational screen time, and ‘1’ is the number of hours (or more) they should engage in physical activity each day. ‘0’ is the number of sugary drinks they should strive for, replacing these with more water and low-fat milk.”

Marianna Hernandez

Seven-year-old Marianna Hernandez was
one of the first participants to complete the
Healthy Habits Rewards program.

Each child who enters the program receives a log to track their progress in making these choices. If they manage all four, then they receive four points, which is the maximum per day. After reaching 70 points, they can choose from the mountain of footballs, soccer balls and other sports paraphernalia located at the center.

Health-care professionals and primary care providers are credible sources for health and wellness messages and they also play an integral role in the health of communities. So even if the children don’t complete the log and receive a prize, McAvoy explained, their participation creates an opportunity for the CWC health-care providers to talk to families about the 5-2-1-0 messages and raise awareness about healthy lifestyles.

“Our goal is to promote healthy habits in children and their families. The rewards are simply a fun incentive to encourage them to make new healthy choices,” McAvoy said.

According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010.

The CWC is a school-based health clinic partnership between the Del Valle Independent School District (in southeast Travis County) and the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, and is an affiliate of CommUnityCare. The children and families served by the clinic are predominantly low-income and medically underserved. The clinic is the only provider of pediatric health-care services in the Del Valle area.