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Chinle Team Fighting Childhood Obesity

chinleChinle’s “Growing Healthy Dine Families” team has been recognized for its efforts to fight childhood obesity.

The Canyon Ranch Institute Healthy World Scholarship is honoring four groups across the nation that improve the health and well being of children through healthy eating. Besides Chinle, Greenville, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and Wilkes County, North Carolina are receiving scholarships.

The teams live and work in these communities and are comprised of 15 experts in health care, food service, education and non-profit innovation.

Chinle, with a population of more than 4,500 people, is a center of tribal, county, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal offices. In response to the nearly 20 percent obesity rate in Navajo children who are ages two and five, the Chinle team, with support from the Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS), is seeking to expand Family Spirit, an existing early childhood home-visiting program developed by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.

“We hope this new curriculum will add culturally-tailored guidance on infant/toddler nutrition and physical activity to Family Spirit’s already evidence-based programming on parenting and promoting childhood health and wellness,” said Florence Wu, M.D., head of the Department of Pediatrics at the Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility of Navajo Area Indian Health Service. “We are grateful for the opportunity to learn new ways from experts at Canyon Ranch Institute to nurture health and create bright futures for one of the most at-risk populations in this country, Native American youth.”

The program strives to prevent childhood obesity and diabetes in this rural region by developing strategies and curriculum that focus on physical activity in younger Navajo populations.

“Our team is excited about the opportunity to learn innovative ways to care for the human body, mind and spirit,” said Crystal Kee, senior research program coordinator at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for American Indian Health.

As part of the award, the four winning teams will travel this month to the Canyon Ranch health and wellness resort in Tucson to meet with leaders in the fields of fitness and nutrition.

The goal at Canyon Ranch is to nurture a collaboration that will create lasting change in low-income communities where the nutrition and general health of children is a growing concern.

“Good nutrition is essential to children’s growth and development, but children in low-income communities often have limited access to healthy food,” said Canyon Ranch Institute Executive Director Jennifer Cabe, M.A., who is also a CRI board member. “We know that many of the chronic diseases that people experience are related to eating unhealthy foods and unhealthy portions. By supporting these teams now, Canyon Ranch Institute and Canyon Ranch are investing at the community level in changing systems and organizations that directly influence what low-income children eat every day.”

“We’re excited to see how each team uses their scholarship experience to produce even greater positive changes in the health of children and the communities where they live,” said Maggie King, manager for the CRI Healthy World Scholarship program.

Chinle is located in Apache County, near the geographic center of the Navajo Nation. The name in Navajo means “flowing out,” and is a reference to the location where the water flows out of Canyon de Chelly.

Canyon Ranch, winner of many travel and leisure awards, has been recognized as a pioneer of the wellness lifestyle for almost 40 years, working to create practices that educate, inspire and empower people to prevent disease and embrace a life of wellness.

Canyon Ranch was founded by Mel Zuckerman, who – “overweight, sedentary and desperate – checked himself into a fat farm in 1978. After just 10 days of physical training and healthy eating, he realized that he felt wonderful, that he had changed his life forever and that he wanted to help other people change theirs.” FBN

By Betsey Bruner, FBN


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