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Public Health Students Promote Nutrition and Wellness at Rensselaer Boys and Girls Club

March 2, 2009

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Children playing Twister.

UAlbany School of Public Health students use the game of Twister to promote good nutrition for children at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Rensselaer County. (Photo Mark Schmidt) 

If you see some awfully tall kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Rensselaer County this spring playing Twister, look again: They are UAlbany School of Public Health students.

Twelve UAlbany students are working with the club every Friday afternoon this semester to create a nutrition and physical activity program called Healthy Kids, Healthy Rensselaer. The project is the culmination of their work as part of the Public Health Leaders of Tomorrow CORE (PHLOT CORE) program, a competitive leadership development initiative supported by New York State.

At the Boys and Girls Club, one activity the UAlbany students play with the children is Twister, calling out fruits and vegetables instead of colors. "So we'll say banana and the children will have to put a hand on yellow," said SPH student Amy Jones, of Colonie, N.Y. "Then we're making bugs. We're using bananas for the bodies with raisins for feet," she said.

"A rising number of our nation's youths are overweight," said grad student Kim Andrews of Randolph, N.Y., whose background is in biochemistry. "This is a risk factor for numerous chronic diseases that plague society. Obesity can be prevented through regular physical activity and practicing healthy eating habits. Healthy Kids, Healthy Rensselaer will present these ideas in a way that is both fun and educational."

"Community involvement is essential to the success of the program," said Jones, a May MPH candidate and vice president of the Graduate Student Organization, who came to the School of Public Health because of her passion for preventive care.

Jones says she was "lucky enough to find an accredited School of Public Health right in my own back yard, so UAlbany was a perfect fit."

SPH student and a girl from the Boys and Girls Club working together.

School of Public Health student  Amy Jones makes nutrition fun for a child at the Boys and Girls Club. (Mark Schmidt)

At the Boys and Girls Club, in addition to playing basketball and other team sports to encourage physical activity, the SPH students have invited UAlbany's Organized C.H.A.O.S. Crazy Hot Amazing Original Steppers step team and a dance team to offer a workshop.

The group is seeking additional volunteers from the UAlbany community. The program will end with a community-wide health expo and a 5K race on Sunday, May 3, to benefit the Boys and Girls Club.

In addition to seeking individual and corporate sponsors for the race, the students are asking for donations of healthy food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, for cooking lessons with the children. Sports equipment, raffle items, and giveaways for those participating in the culminating event will also be accepted. Proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Club and are tax-deductible.

For more information or to participate, contact phlotcore@gmail.com or Assistant Dean Anthony Torres at the School.

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Rabi Musah
UAlbany Faculty

"It is an enriching experience for me to observe people as they come to recognize something for the first time."

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