Reaching out for health

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations | May 14, 2013

Image with caption: UNMC student Amy Houser discusses healthful drink choices with elementary students.

UNMC student Amy Houser discusses healthful drink choices with elementary students.

Members of the College of Public Health Student Association, working with the afterschool group Collective for Youth, partnered with Saratoga Elementary School in Omaha on April 30 to provide fun and informative health education to the young students.

Approximately 50 students, grades kindergarten through six, attend the after-school program and took part in the public health event.

Jessica Chavez Thompson, an outgoing officer in the College of Public Health Student Association, said the project was conceived as an outreach project for National Public Health Week.

Presentations included food groups and portion sizes; the benefits of yoga and a yoga demonstration; and healthier drinks, with smoothie recipe handouts and a chart to help kids make healthier drink choices.

"As (the project) was evolving, we felt this was a good opportunity to set the tone for how the College of Public Health Student Association - as our own entity - could represent the college," she said.

The event may serve as a model for more outreach projects.

"We would like to continue this partnership and take it to a next level," said Ketki Patel, M.D., incoming secretary for the COPH student association.

UNMC student Amy Houser, who presented on healthful drinks, said the experience showed her the value of health education in schools.

"I'm excited to make a difference in the lives of children here in Omaha," she said.

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Beau Sanchez leads a yoga demonstration. "The kids and I had so much fun making animal poses and just being silly," she said.
Katie Stern, another presenter, agreed.

"We all enjoyed presenting nutrition and physical activity information to the kids, she said. "It's always great to get out into the community and out of the classroom to share our knowledge especially with younger folks who are excited to learn."

The children enjoyed the presentations, as well, said Sherry Dukes, the site director for afterschool program Collective for Youth.

"I thought it was very good, the presentations, the way they interacted with the kids," Dukes said. "Afterwards, the children had the opportunity to raise their hands and ask questions."

Interacting with the UNMC students was a thrill for the elementary kids, said Dukes, adding she would definitely take part in another event with the College of Public Health.

Meanwhile, Houser has ideas for improvement.

"For my presentation on healthy beverages, I would like to have models showing children how much sugar is in certain drinks," she said. "I think this will improve their understanding of the information and increase the likelihood they will make healthy beverage choices in the future."

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