Armanda Trinh Britton, a youth worker of the Boston Asian Youth Essential Service, knows preventing obesity in children is more than just emphasizing pumping iron and sweating bullets.
Britton runs the Obesity Prevention Program at the youth service, one of seven programs committed to promoting a healthy lifestyle in the residents of the greater Boston area. The program is funded by the Asian Health Initiative at Tufts Medical Center, which awarded organizations with funds for three years in order to propose and implement health programs that not only encourage a healthy lifestyle, but can also measure the progress of its participants.
To that end, the Boston Asian Youth Essential Service launched its first year of the fund cycle with their Obesity Prevention Program, which has participants ranging from 13 to 18 years old, and focuses on helping youth develop healthy, lifelong habits.
The youth service offers a variety of physical activities for its participants, from zumba to basketball. “We try to offer a variety of things, because not every kid is going to like every thing,” Britton said. But one thing they all are encouraged to do is walk.
“It is our thing. We’re going to walk all the time, walk as much as we can and we encourage them [youth] to get off the train a stop early,” Britton said. “To encourage that whole walking thing is so that it’s not about having to have money to exercise or to go somewhere to workout and be happy.”
Britton takes the youths out for a mile-long walk on Tuesdays. She sometimes walks fast to get the teens to walk faster, or with the luck of the rain the kids speed up themselves. “It becomes fun,” she said. “It’s not about pumping iron; you can sweat and have fun.”
The Obesity Prevention Program also includes education on nutrition, where youths learn to make healthy food choices and prepare nutritious meals. “We take them grocery shopping,” Britton said. “We help them learn how to select stuff, like how do you pick a good apple or the right avocado you want for later in the day.”
A part of making healthy choices is to recognize bad choices, such as drinking bubble tea, a product which leaves Britton questioning its ingredients. “Powder and sugar, and god knows what else, it’s a foreign substance and we don’t know what the heck that is,” she said. But what she does know is, “it’s very high in calories, high in carbs. It’s bad. So we encourage the kids to not drink that.”
Other grantees were the Wang YMCA, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Community Family Services, the South Cove Manor, the Greater Boston Golden Age Center, and the Asian American Civic Association Sampan Health Page. All are running programs on healthy living and focus on illnesses from heart disease to managing stress levels. Some of the organizations even run classes like the South Cove Manor’s Tai Chi and painting classes, and many of the organizations target elderly health care.
The organizations hold informational sessions to gather interest before opening up the application processes to potential participants. Afterwards, candidates take a pre-survey, which helps health practitioners evaluate potential participants’ lifestyle habits prior to partaking in the program. The program ends with a post-survey, allowing health practitioner to measure participants’ progress as well as judge the effectiveness of their programs.
At the Boston Asian Youth Essential Service, 24 youths will be accepted into the Obesity Prevention Program every year for the next three years. So far, Britton is confident about the efficacy of the Obesity Prevention Program. She says the kids are enthusiastic and supportive of each other.
“The kids are really good at enforcing the policies on each other,” Britton said, recalling a time when the youths talked each other out of buying soda during one of the program’s grocery store visits. “The support system is one of the most successful thing [about our program].”
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