This new funding will support the Connectfive initiative that coordinates resources to serve more than 3,300 students and their families. In particular, it will launch a new health education curriculum that will target the growing threats of childhood obesity and juvenile diabetes.
The New Balance Health Education Curriculum will focus on education and prevention, with special emphasis on nutrition, physical activity and fitness - areas recognized as critical to reversing the current trend toward obesity and diabetes among children. The program will be implemented in the 10 schools of Allston-Brighton and Mission Hill that participate in Connectfive.
The New Balance Foundation grant, payable over three years, will fund key positions within Connectfive, including hiring certified health educators, as well as establish the new curriculum throughout the participating schools.
"We see this as an opportunity to support health and physical education in Boston with a particular interest in positively affecting the issue of childhood obesity," said Anne Davis, executive vice president of New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc., and founding trustee of the New Balance Foundation. "The Connectfive process is well established and involves all key groups in the child's life including the parents. This is a critical element for the success of the program."
The main focus for the first year of implementation will be nutrition, physical activity and fitness, and personal safety - areas that directly address obesity in children and juvenile diabetes and are cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being critical to reducing premature illness and death among children and adolescents.
Interim LSOE Dean Rev. Joseph O'Keefe, SJ, said, "The partnership with New Balance creates exciting momentum for Connectfive in many ways. From the beginning, New Balance understood the necessity of a strong infrastructure as the key to delivering coordinated, comprehensive support services to schoolchildren and their families.
"In particular," he said, "the funding for health education curriculum within Connectfive creates a critical new dimension in the healthy development of children and families. We are delighted that the New Balance Foundation shares our concern that schools not only provide the basics of education, but that they also must address the non-academic needs of children and families."
Child and health experts have identified obesity in children and adolescents as a serious health issue with many long-lasting health and social consequences. According to recent Center for Disease Control figures, 15.5 percent of children aged 6-11 measured in the 95 percent of the Body Mass Index, which is considered a severe health risk, as compared to 7 percent in 1976-1980.
Of equal concern, say experts, is the increase in the incidence of diabetes in children, specifically Type 2 diabetes. Each year, more than 13,000 American children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. As more children and adolescents in the United States become overweight and inactive, health providers are seeing a rise in Type 2 diabetes in these age groups.
"We now know that academic success in urban schools requires integrated and comprehensive student and family support to address needs that arise outside the classroom," said Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership Mary Walsh, who directs the University's Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships.
"A partnership between New Balance and Connectfive to implement a comprehensive health education curriculum can reverse the course along which vulnerable children could potentially head - toward obesity, diabetes and substance abuse. With this funding, every child in Allston-Brighton/Mission Hill elementary schools will receive critical teaching and learning about how to become and stay healthy - physically, emotionally and socially."
The New Balance Foundation is a charitable foundation established and funded by New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc. The foundation supports programs that emphasize local outreach efforts, the involvement of the community, and children's initiatives that benefit the communities in which their employees live and work.
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