Tri-City students learn healthy tips with Kadlec Academy - courtesy of Tri-City Herald

Fit_students_drinksYou do the math: Tri-City students learn healthy tips add up

It’s elementary math.

Five servings of fruits and vegetables, plus two hours of screen time, one hour of exercise and zero sugary drinks equals healthy kids.

Edna Felix chanted the formula as she led 15 kids through some exercises at Richland’s Jefferson Elementary School.

The students were participating in the four-week Kadlec Academy, where they learn about healthy eating, exercise and some first aid techniques.

It’s all part of a larger initiative led by Kadlec Regional Medical Center to make children and, by extension, their families healthier.

“It’s not uncommon to see kids going around with big bags of chips and 2-liter bottles of soda,” said Felix, with Kadlec.

IT’S NOT UNCOMMON TO SEE KIDS GOING AROUND WITH BIG BAGS OF CHIPS AND TWO LITER BOTTLES OF SODA.

Edna Felix, Kadlec Academy

It’s an issue across the state, with nearly a quarter of the state’s students being considered at least overweight, state Department of Health officials said in 2012. At that time, the number of overweight or obese students in Benton County was 3 percent higher than the state average. No numbers were available for Franklin County.

About seven years ago, a group of therapists, dieticians and exercise specialists from Kadlec began talking about how to combat the issue and they started the Kadlec Academy in two schools.

Now, during the course of a year, Felix travels to 31 elementary schools in the Mid-Columbia. Students learn about food portioning and sugar in soft drinks, growing vegetables, performing hands-only CPR and protecting your head from concussions.

WE FOCUSED IT ON FIFTH-GRADERS BECAUSE THAT’S WHEN THEY START TO DROP OFF OF THAT EXERCISE SPECTRUM. THEY ARE LITTLE OLD FOR PROGRAMS GEARED TOWARD THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, BUT THEY’RE NOT OLD ENOUGH TO PARTICIPATE IN ORGANIZED SPORTS.

Edna Felix, Kadlec Academy

As students learn about living healthier, the hope is they take the information back home, she said.

“Kids are great motivators for their parents to exercise,” Felix said. “Healthy kids equals healthy families and healthy families equals healthy communities.”

Along with the normal four-week class, the academy is in the second year of the Sqord program, which provides fitness trackers to fifth-graders in 10 Tri-City schools.

“We focused it on fifth-graders because that’s when they start to drop off of that exercise spectrum,” Felix said. “They are little old for programs geared toward the elementary school, but they’re not old enough to participate in organized sports.”

Providence Health and Services first became involved with Sqord during a pilot program supported by the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition. Kadlec is affiliated with the not-for-profit health system.

IF WE CAN CAPTURE THEM IN FIFTH GRADE AND MAKE SURE THEY’RE EXCITED ABOUT EXERCISE, THEN THEY’RE A LITTLE BIT MORE LIKELY TO CONTINUE THAT PATTERN LATER IN LIFE.

Edna Felix, Kadlec Academy

The results of the pilot program showed students wearing the tracker increased their activity by 12 percent to 13 percent in a year, Providence officials said.

“If we can capture them in fifth-grade and make sure they’re excited about exercise, then they’re a little bit more likely to continue that pattern later in life,” she said.

While it’s hard to track whether the program changes everyone’s behavior, Felix said parents and children share their experiences.

“I had one girl say, ‘I want to learn more so I can teach my dad how to eat healthier,’ ” she said. “It’s messages like those that show me the message is getting through.”

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert