Canton City Schools’ middle-school nurse Dmitri Miles partnered with Mercy this summer on our grant-funded Healthy 4 Life Camp. She says, “Ohio’s testing demands have increased so much in recent years that we have very little time to address health topics. During Healthy 4 Life, in contrast, we spent more than two hours with students during each session.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States. Approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. Because the causes of obesity are complex, one of the best ways to combat the problem is to teach children about healthy lifestyles.
That’s where Healthy 4 Life Camp comes in.
In 2014, at the Stark County District Library’s Madge Youtz Branch in northeast Canton, Mercy Mission Outreach Coordinator Tracia Wellman piloted Healthy 4 Life. This year — with grant support from the Stark Community Foundation and in partnership with Canton City Schools and one of the district’s middle-school nurses, Dimitri Miles, RN — Tracia expanded the camp, offering an additional four sessions to nearly 40 students in grades six through eight from the College & Career Readiness Academy at Lehmen School; the Altitude Academy at Crenshaw School; Early College Academy at Souers School; and the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) academy at Hartford School. These students were all part of Canton City School’s summer school program.
“I designed Healthy 4 Life to motivate students to maintain or improve their health, prevent disease and reduce risky behaviors,” says Tracia. “The camp has really opened my eyes to the great need the community has for health enrichment programs.”
During the Healthy 4 Life Camp, students learned about:
- Exercise from a Mercy exercise specialist, Stephanie Wheeler
- Dental health from Jay Maxfield, DDS
- Hygiene from Mercy nurse Misty Camp, RN.
In addition, students were given healthy snacks and participated in activity centers, toured the Mercy Dental and Fitness Centers, and learned about journaling and health-care careers.
Providing Access to Healthy Lifestyle Information for Kids
Dmitri says she became very interested in Healthy 4 Life because it’s a summer program. “Ohio’s testing demands have increased so much in recent years that we have very little time to address these types of health topics – especially nutrition and hygiene – during the school year,” she adds.
Last year, according to Dimitri, a STEAM Academy teacher specifically requested a nutrition class, but it was cancelled due to testing requirements.
“Even when we do spend time in a classroom, we might get 40 minutes max,” she says. “In contrast, we spent more than two hours with students during each session. It was a relaxed environment, and students actually had fun during the learning process.”
Dimitri has worked with Mercy before on the Well Women Stark project, which earlier this year provided an opportunity to teach middle school girls and their parents about the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer.
She says, “Well Women Stark was also a fun environment where the girls had the opportunity to participate in a high tea while learning. It is so important for students to know about health-related topics.”
She hopes that in the near future, Canton City Schools will be able to offer an after-school program that will build on the Healthy 4 Life concept.