IS 59 students fight battle over obesity

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IS 59 students present a check to Cohen's Children Medical Center after they performed a skit about fighting obesity. Photo by Ivan Pereira

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By Ivan Pereira

December 22, 2011

Cohen Children’s Medical Center received a large donation last week to boost its new program to fight childhood obesity and a group of Springfield Gardens students from IS 59 showed the hospital’s administrator a creative way of fighting the problem.

Kohl’s Department stores gave the New Hyde Park hospital $387,165 for its various programs to build young people’s self-esteem. Cohen’s executive director, Kevin McGeachy, said obesity has become a growing epidemic among young people and damages one’s health beyond the high cholesterol count.

“It has a lot of connotations, not only in the physical problems but also the psychological problems,” he said.

Instead of having a simple check presentation ceremony, the hospital and Kohl’s wanted to send a positive message that addressed the issue and partnered with the school, at 132-55 Ridgedale St. Students who were part of the dance group at IS 59 wrote and performed their own play that addressed obesity’s negative effect on teens and offered solutions on how to prevent the epidemic and the bullying associated with it.

In the play, a teen girl talks about how ostracized she has become due to her weight, but her pals encourage her to block out the bullying and start exercising. The girls then performed several dance numbers to music and told the audience that similar activities not only get kids into shape, but also create ways for them to get together and share interests.

Cohen’s programs seem to be making a difference, according to new data released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Over the last five years, the number of New York City public schoolchildren from kindergarten through eighth-grade who are obese dropped from 21.9 percent to 20.7 percent, according to the agency.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted several city initiatives, including adapting school lunch menus to include more fruits, vegetables and low-fat options. Like the IS 59 play suggested, city schools are also pushing more gym and recess time to make students more active, according to the mayor.

“Children who are more physically fit have fewer health problems — and fewer trips to the hospital. That’s great news for kids and their families, and for taxpayers, too,” he said in a statement.

Despite the decrease in obesity in the schools, the rates are still higher among minorities, according to the CDC study. The city health commissioner said his office will continue to help the city’s inner-city youth adopt healthier habits through other school programs, advertising and other initiatives.

“While we believe we are on the right track, we have much more work to do to further reduce obesity rates of children and adults,” Commissioner Thomas A. Farley said in a statement.

IS 59’s Carleton Gordon said he will also continue to do his part. When Cohen’s and Kohl’s approached him to do the skit, he immediately signed on to the project because he always wanted to promote healthy living and community service.

“They’re not getting anything for this,” he said of the students who participated in the play. “They are not doing this for a grade. They are doing this to help benefit society.”

McGeachy said the grant will go a long way and the hospital would be partnering with other schools and corporations to tackle obesity among youth.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 at 4:16 pm and is filed under Education, Feature, Print Articles, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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