Wayne State University School of Medicine medical students spent part of their summer mentoring Detroit children and their families as volunteers for the Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program and its FitKids360 and related FitKids On the Move in the D program, preparing 115 participants for the Sept. 3 In the Cut 5K Fun Run/Walk in Detroit’s Chene Park.
The run is expected to be the first 5K for its participants, who are overweight children learning to make healthy behavioral changes with their families. The medical students work with each child to support the family and help the child complete the race.
School of Medicine students also are members of the School of Medicine’s FitKids360 student group, and earn Co-Curricular Program credit in four sessions throughout the year for serving as mentors to overweight and obese children and their families, providing nutritional and educational guidance, motivation, activity monitoring and more.
FitKids360 is an eight-week childhood obesity intervention program that targets children 5 to 17 years old who have a Body Mass Index in the 85th percentile or above. The program curriculum is taught by a social worker, registered dietitian and fitness expert, and includes about one hour of exercise per session. Participants who complete the FitKids360 program are eligible to participate in the On the Move program, a 12-week extension of FitKid360 that ensures each family is successful, providing a weekly training guide so families can train for the race at home. Both programs are free.
“We have a wonderful relationship with our WSU medical students, and they are instrumental to our program,” said Krista Clark, community health engagement manager with the Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program. “The WSU students are involved in both programs, and are one of the big reasons that FitKids is as successful as it has been lately.”
The School of Medicine’s FitKids360 student group board members include fourth-year students Maria Tocco, Andrea Parker and Mary Hauswirth; third-year students Yafa Davydova and Lilly Jordan; and second-year students Richard Thompson, Julie Wittwer, Xue Claire Jing Li and Josh Dean, who also verifies volunteer hours. Students meet with a mentee and their family every week for two hours, building trust and rapport.
“FitKid mentors serve as a friend, role model and motivator in an attempt to help their mentee make healthy lifestyle modifications,” Dean said. “The intimate relationship between FitKid participants, their families and our volunteers is a crucial reason we have been so successful with recruitment. This unique feature of FitKids not only differentiates us from other volunteer opportunities at the School of Medicine but is why this program is so beneficial for both volunteers and participants.”
In addition, the medical students were among the families, running enthusiasts and local physicians who, with assistance from the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the WSU FitKids student group, came together Aug. 6 to provide new running shoes and socks to more than 50 children planning to run the race.
“Children today face a grim future of higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, mental health issues, cancers and shorter life spans as they grow up in today’s fast-paced world. Keeping kids active and healthy into adulthood is even more important today than ever before,” said Teresa Holtrop, M.D., F.A.A.P., chief medical officer of the Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program. “The Fit Kids On the Move program is a great example of how a community can come together to provide greatly-needed opportunities for families and children to learn how to be active, how to exercise and, in this case, how to run. The plan is not to end at eight weeks, but to keep them going and learn an activity skill they can continue with for years to come.”
Participants train at Tolan Playfield in Detroit with area football teams and cheerleading squads, running and walking for a predetermined amount of time each week. Registered dietitians and fitness experts are at every meeting to teach participants how to properly fuel their bodies for exercise and ensure safety and proper form.