ALBANY, N.Y., March 1, 2007 - New York State United Teachers has a new ally in its battle against the growing childhood obesity epidemic.
NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi announced that the American Cancer Society has signed on as partner in the union's innovative healthy lifestyle program, which encourages schoolchildren to get off the couch, away from their video games and into healthy lifestyles.
The program - 24/7 Let's Go! - was introduced as a pilot project in 2005 and successfully included about 5,000 students in schools across the state. This year's phase is expected to reach approximately 50,000 students in grades K-5.
"The American Cancer Society's endorsement underscores how important healthy lifestyles are," Iannuzzi said. "Childhood obesity increases the risk of several types of cancer; we already know it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. The participation of ACS fits perfectly with our goal of keeping children healthy."
24/7 Let's Go! was created by NYSUT's Health Care Professionals Council, which was alarmed by reports that today's children exercise less and eat more junk food than ever before. It was developed for use by teachers, school nurses and health care professionals to help them address this national crisis in a fun and interesting way.
And, at a time when cities like New York and Buffalo are working to ban the use of artificial fats in restaurants, 24/7 Let's Go! is timely, providing another way children can eat healthier meals and snacks.
"It is critical that we combat childhood obesity on a large scale," American Cancer Society Executive Vice President Jeanne Walsh said. "That's why the American Cancer Society is proud to support NYSUT and the 24/7 Let's Go! program. We urge educators and parents alike to get kids active and eating right."
Iannuzzi said the program is designed to start children on the road to long-term good health.
"This isn't just about helping kids who are already overweight," Iannuzzi said. "24/7 Let's Go! is aimed at helping every child develop a healthy lifestyle. We want schoolchildren to begin developing good habits now. The younger they start, the healthier they'll be."
The program encourages young students to take seven positive steps a day and track their progress by earning stickers to place on a chart. The chart has a list of 24 fun, healthy ideas that children can embrace to earn stickers. Each kit includes guides for parents and educators.
"Every child will be urged to participate," said Iannuzzi. "We see this as a project for the whole class - no student will be singled out. The idea is to make good health habits fun so they actually become habits. This is not a calorie-counting or weight-loss contest. It's not a fad diet. It's a fun way to approach healthy eating and physical activity. We believe that the best way to reach children is through the grown-ups who see them every day - their parents, their teachers and their school nurses."
NYSUT represents 575,000 teachers, school-related professionals, academic and professional faculty in higher education, professionals in education and health care and retirees. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.