Learning how to be healthy

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
September 25, 2008 3:35:09 PM PDT
Students at one high school on Long Island on focusing on a lot more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. That focus has gotten them the title of the healthiest school in the country.

It has taken a lot of work by students, faculty, staff, the community and the national group Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Now, a West Babylon high school is at the top of a nationwide effort to fight our epidemics of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

"We teach wellness so that they understand how to be fit and healthy for the rest of their lives," said Adrienne Goldenbaum, food service director.

And learning wellness has meant making changes, for instance, in food.

There were complaints at first, especially when the salt shakers were removed from the cafeteria.

"I have to tell you, it was the worst day of my life because they were threatening to bring salt from home so I said you'll get used to it," assistant principal Susan Fiedler said.

And they have. There are also no fried foods in the cafeteria, but plenty of healthy eating choices.

"We have wraps. We have salad plates. We have fruit salads," Fielder said.

And its not just the food. Students are also taught physical fitness and encouraged to set physical goals. There are tests to measure body mass index, which tracks fat percentage.

Another test tracks their heart rate before and after exercise. It's all done with goals in mind.

"At the end of the year, the heart rate should be better than it is at the beginning of the year," Lou Howard, athletic director, said.

All efforts are in focus all around the school. Water in the machines, low fat snacks, a bake sale with no cakes -- just healthy stuff to sell and raise funds for student government.

The changes led to the school being named number one by health magazine and cited as tops by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a program which helps schools around the country make healthy changes.

The changes have already begun to pay off. West Babylon as a district has had a five percent decrease in obesity over the last four years.

"We've made behavioral change and that's why its successful. You can see in the halls, in the cafeterias, students are making food decisions," Fielder said.

The teachers are also are encouraged to have fitness goals. Administrators here say the community raising money and helping them buy needed equipment was a big factor in helping the school continue to achieve its goals.

Also honored as healthiest schools:

In New Jersey: Public School #4, West New York

In Connecticut: North Canaan Elementary, North Canaan

ON THE NET:

http://www.healthiergeneration.org/
http://www.igohugo.org/
http://living.health.com/2008/08/20/americas-healthiest-schools-state-by-state/

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