January 1, 2013

Health Department program to focus on family health


---- — PLATTSBURGH — A new program geared toward helping young children and their families practice healthier lifestyles begins in two weeks.

The 11-week program, titled Families Learning About Staying Healthy, or F.L.A.S.H., is hosted by the Clinton County Health Department to replace a longstanding Kid Shape federally supported program that is no longer being funded locally.

“The goal of Kid Shape was to work with families, both parents and child, to promote healthy activities on a daily basis,” said Suzanne LaBorde, a registered nurse for the Health Department. “That is what we will also be doing with the F.L.A.S.H. program, but it has been created locally by Health Department staff.”

Those staff members have collected ideas from a variety of similar concepts across the country, utilizing techniques that work the best and eliminating those that were not as successful, she added.

“We want to concentrate on nutritional information, learning about My Plate, reading labels, and understanding the significance of drinking high-sugar beverages,” she said in summarizing the highlights of the program’s nutritional format.

My Plate is the new U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food grouping recommendations that has replaced the Food Pyramid. The concept uses a plate rather than a pyramid to emphasize the need to fill half of the dinner plate with fruits and vegetables.

The F.L.A.S.H. program will actually consists of eight working sessions over the 11-week- period, allowing participants to have “at home weeks” where parents and children can practice the techniques they have learned.

“We want to give families the tools they need to make healthier lifestyle choices,” LaBorde said. “We’ll come together for five weeks and then take a week off as a practice week for families to work on what they’ve learned at home.

“When we come back (following the week off), we’ll have an opportunity to discuss what kinds of things worked and what we need to continue working on.

“We don’t expect everybody to change their (lifestyle) patterns overnight,” she added. “We hope to see a steady increase in healthy activities and a decrease in unhealthy activities.”

Mandy Snay, a pediatric dietician at the Health Department, will be on hand during the sessions to stress the nutritional component of the program, but improving physical activities will also be a key focus.

Erin Pangdorn of the Town of Plattsburgh Recreation Department will lend her expertise in physical activity to the program.

“In today’s world (of Internet access and video games), there is a lot of disconnect within families,” LaBorde said. “We’ll spend a lot of time on cooperative play time, how families can play together.”

The program will also identify resources throughout the community that will be beneficial to children and their families in achieving healthier lifestyles.

The first session, which starts Jan. 15 at the Imaginarium Museum on Route 9 south of Plattsburgh, will be open to children ages six to nine. Each session lasts about two hours and includes information, snacks and games.

Class size is limited to 12 families per session, and the fee for the entire session is $35.

The Health Department hopes to hold a second session in the spring for children ages 10 and 12 and is looking to hold a third session later in the year.

To qualify for the F.L.A.S.H program, a child has to have a body-mass index above the 85 percentile based on the child’s age or have a weight-related chronic condition.

Children can be referred to the program by a pediatrician, or the family can contact the Health Department directly to determine if eligible.

At least one caregiver must attend all sessions with the child.

The opening session will focus on the My Plate nutrition chart, goal setting and how much “screen time” is appropriate for children to access television, the computer or video games.

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The first of three FLASH programs planned for this year begins Jan. 15 and will be held for 11 weeks at Imaginarium children's museum on Route 9 south of Platttsburgh from 6 to 8 p.m.

The program is limited to 12 children from ages six to nine and their parents/guardian.

The fee for the program is $35. For more information or to register for a seat in the upcoming FLASH program, call the Clinton County Health Department at 565-4933.