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Culture of Health

Maxwell’s Lerner Center is working with local government to encourage exercise and good snacking habits by students.

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School Policies and Healthy Kids
Concerns over obesity in children and the role schools play in ensuring wellness have led Maxwell’s Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion to play a role in the health of Central New York’s youth. As part of a five-year, New York State grant to the Onondaga County Health Department, awarded in 2015, the Lerner Center is taking its expertise into area schools.

Since 2012, the Lerner Center has installed seventeen marked one-mile walking routes in Syracuse and Onondaga County, encouraging Central New Yorkers to take steps to ward off obesity and increase health. Thus far, those “Monday Mile” routes have been centered around local area hospitals and Syracuse University. Now the Center is working with the county to place Monday Mile routes near schools, so students and staff can jump-start their week with a mile-long walk — an average of 2,000 steps.

“The routes provide opportunities for people to be active at work, at home, and at play,” says Leah Moser, program coordinator for the Lerner Center. Monday Mile routes in and around schools encourage regular physical activity and help identify and encourage safe walking routes at buildings located in the city’s urban core, she adds.

The five-year-old Lerner Center — created with a gift from 1953 Syracuse University graduate Sid Lerner and his wife, Helaine — is also supporting the county health department, along with other community partners, in reviewing and updating the Syracuse City School District’s wellness policy, which outlines environmental practices that support a culture of health.

And the Lerner Center, also in collaboration with the county health department, has launched a Healthy Monday passport challenge to address physical activity and nutrition in after-school programs. The passport encourages students to track their healthy choices, such as walking a Monday Mile or choosing fruits and vegetables as a snack. They check off the activities in a passport the Lerner Center provides.

 Completed passports will be entered into a raffle for healthy prizes, like a new bicycle, donated by local businesses. Partners include Cornell Cooperative Extension, the YMCA, Salvation Army, and Bascol, a nonprofit that provides child care at 15 sites in five county school districts.

The passport challenge is being launched in several after-school programs that serve hundreds of elementary-age children across the county. “It’s a simple way to encourage healthy choices,” Moser says.

— Renée K. Gadoua

This article appeared in the spring 2016 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2016 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.