Houston Gets in the Zone!
Heat advisories and unseasonably soaring temperatures did not put a damper on Tamara Duncan's plans to teach kids and their parents that having fun and staying healthy go hand-in-hand.
Earlier this fall, Duncan—who is the Program Developer for Family Health and Wellness at Neighborhood Centers, Inc. and who joined the We Can!® program in November 2008—organized six Back-to-School Health Fairs in the Houston area.
Last year, Neighborhood Centers, Inc. kicked off their We Can! involvement by hosting an event with Tab Ramos—the former Olympic soccer star—facilitated by We Can! partner SUBWAY® restaurants. At the event‚ Ramos spoke to children in both Spanish and English about the importance of eating well and staying active.
"Last year's turnout was so great and the community was so energized by Tab and We Can!, that I knew I wanted to incorporate We Can! into future Neighborhood Center, Inc. events," said Duncan.
And incorporate, she did! At each fair, Duncan set up a We Can! Zone, which included several active games (a jump rope competition, an apple run, a bean-bag toss, and more), exercise tips from a physical trainer, healthy snacks and healthy meal ideas, and We Can! materials and resources for participating kids and their parents.
"We have always had a kids' zone at our previous health fairs, but I really wanted this year's zone to be focused on health," said Duncan. "I wanted the kids to get up, get active, put the video games away, and learn how to play again."
According to Duncan, the health fairs were a huge success—they attracted over 16,000 participants, many of whom are at higher risk of becoming obese. The only downfall was the unusually high October heat, which may have kept some potential participants at home.
"Our health fairs are definitely growing," says Duncan, who attributes the total number of participants to the economy. "I think a lot of people rely on this fair for their routine wellness check-ups."
At the fairs, participants received free health screenings (including dental screenings, glucose screenings, and cholesterol screenings), free back-to-school immunizations, and back-to-school supplies. Additionally, participants could attend healthy cooking demonstrations and various health information booths.
Even with all these great activities, the We Can! Zone was definitely the star of the fairs! By the end of the sixth fair, over 1,000 youth had participated in the We Can! Zone, and just as many parents picked up program materials and tips.
"Our We Can! Zone took this year's events to another level," said Duncan. "And that level is one I would like to replicate in future years."