Diabetes Network News | Published June 6, 2012 | Written by Rose Villarreal, MS, PA-C, director of the Mount Nittany Health Diabetes Network

Healthy Home Runs Has Kids Touching Base with a Healthy Lifestyle

The State College Spikes, a Class A-Short Season affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, partnered with Mount Nittany Health this spring to offer "Healthy Home Runs," an interactive school assembly program that focuses on promoting good nutrition and physical activity habits.

The program was designed to help improve the overall health and well-being of students from kindergarten to 6th grade in Central Pennsylvania, by teaching kids about the benefits of healthy eating and being active.

Mount Nittany Diabetes Network staff joined the State College Spikes at various elementary schools within Central Pennsylvania this spring to promote a healthy lifestyle. Proper nutrition and physical activity are important in helping to prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. As part of the program, there were fresh fruit and vegetable tastings for the children.

Forming healthy habits early in life can help prevent developing type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Previously, health care practitioners rarely saw children with type 2 diabetes, but now it is increasingly common.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years. In 2008 in the U.S., one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Being overweight is one of the major risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. A new study showed that type 2 diabetes in children is harder to treat than it is in adults and that the disease progresses more rapidly in children.

These new findings are very concerning, because poorly controlled diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, vision loss, nerve damage, kidney disease, and amputations. The risk increases the longer a person has diabetes. Theoretically, those who develop diabetes in childhood may develop complications of the disease much earlier in life than previous generations who developed diabetes as adults. This new evidence underscores the importance of preventing diabetes before it develops.

It is a serious problem, but we want the program to be fun for the kids. When we visited the schools, the participation level was excellent. The children's eyes lit up when they met Ike the Spike.

Students completed Ike's Fun Fit Challenge, which consisted of running bases while completing a regimen of push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. Every student who completed the challenge was rewarded with one complimentary Bullpen Box ticket for the Spikes Healthy Home Runs Day at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, which will be held on Saturday, August 4th.

August 4th is also Paint the Park Pink Night, a special benefit for The Foundation for Mount Nittany Medical Center in which money raised is donated to the Breast Cancer Center. Every child who participated in the Healthy Home Runs program in the spring will be honored from the field during a pre-game ceremony.