Learn about the Healthy Kids’ Story

by Jennifer A. Gardner, M.D. on November 01, 2012

Why would a busy pediatrician and mom create a comprehensive child wellness and weight management program? It’s simple—as an eyewitness I was compelled to action.

As a pediatric hospitalist and pediatric emergency physician I experienced the burgeoning obesity epidemic and its detrimental health effects on my patients first hand. Increasing numbers of children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, an alarming increase in the number of children found hypertensive during routine checkups, and parents requesting “opt out” notes from their child’s gym class all turned a baseline murmur of concern into a loud and steady beat! The nutritional status of many of my patients faired no better with French fries as the most consumed vegetable and soda as the preferred drink. Many of my busy parents even deemed fast food “easier and cheaper” than home cooked meals!

I observed that many sick children in the ER and on the pediatric hospital ward would take longer than expected to recover from illness, many carrying the bondage of excess weight and poor physical fitness. Trying to address important nutritional, dietary, fitness, and weight concerns upon discharge was a Herculean task.

I was met with an array of emotions; fear, mistrust, anxiety, suspicion, and sometimes even anger. Some families simply did not believe me, their doctor had never mentioned this. Others had at their doctor’s urging attempted healthier lifestyle measures and even weight management, without concrete direction or measurable success. Some parents reluctantly admitted they too ate poorly and had no idea what compromised healthy eating, wondering how they could ever do a better job with their child! Some even questioned the fairness of instituting change in the home when other family members were “good eaters” or “normal weight.”

Building a Program around Parents and Kids

To address these concerns I searched for a comprehensive wellness resource to help guide better food choices while promoting improved physical fitness, and I simply could not find a family centered solution with the right educational materials, ability to create an environment for change, personalized approach, and compassion I was seeking. This obvious gap became the nidus upon which the Healthy Kids Program would build, initially consisting of brief lectures, handouts, and healthy eating suggestions offered upon discharge including my one doctor campaign to spread useful nutritional knowledge I called “kitchen nutrition.”

Understanding that poor eating and fitness habits established in early childhood often persist into adulthood, and deeply concerned about the future health of this generation—the first not expected to live longer than its parents—I founded the Healthy Kids Company to spread my message of health and wellness and help reverse this jaw dropping and unacceptable trend.

Tired of observing how poor nutrition, inactivity, and excess weight adversely effected children’s health, I developed the two pillars of the Healthy Kids Program: The Fill up with Premium Healthy Eating Plan and The Healthy Me Grand Prix Challenge.

As a pediatrician, I understand families want to feed their children better, but don’t know where to start. Our healthy eating plan simplifies nutritional decision making. As a child development expert and mother, I also understand that children need real motivation for change. By combining children’s universal love of games with their inherent desire for parental approval and rewards, the Healthy Me Grand Prix is a fun way to motivate and track improvement in diet and activity patterns, establishing a path to lifelong healthy habits. Our online race to health and fitness gives parent the ability to honestly answer the question, how well did my child eat today and was (s)he active enough?—an important first step on the road to healthier living!

But Healthy Kids understands the axiom “if you build it they will come” doesn’t necessarily apply to children and healthy eating and fitness! Parents are an integral part of TEAM Healthy Kids. We show you how health messaging and role modeling, improved parenting and leadership skills, effective communication, and proven discipline strategies—combined with our program—can dramatically improve the health trajectory of the entire family. We understand parents need more than advice, they need a roadmap pointing to improved healthy lifestyle habits and this is exactly what our program intends to provide.

As a witness to a generation in peril, and unwilling to assume that future poor health was a forgone conclusion, I now feel hopeful that this generation can grow up to be “Generation Healthy.”

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