Friday, March 19, 2004

Hands-on fair teaches
students about health

By William Croyle
Enquirer Contributor

health fair
Robbie Newman (left) opens wide as Roman Richmond uses a laryngoscope to look into his throat during a health fair for first graders at Blessed Sacrament School in Fort Mitchell.
(Patrick Reddy/The
Cincinnati Enquirer)
FORT MITCHELL - Seven-year-old Samantha Meyrose of Lakeside Park put the stethoscope to the heart of her classmate, Trey Shearer. The stoic look on her face turned to one of excitement when she heard Trey's heartbeat.

"I thought it was kind of strange when I heard it at first," said Samantha. "But then I thought it was pretty cool."

The heart station was one of eight set up by health-care and fire-safety professionals Thursday morning at Blessed Sacrament School's first grade health fair.

About 65 kids spent 20 minutes at each station learning about the heart, teeth, nutrition, X-rays, lungs, bones, hygiene and fire safety. It was the culmination of a five-week health unit taught by teachers Molly Walter, Terri Kresser and Chris Schwartz.

"They're like sponges, especially when it's hands-on like this," said Walter, who has helped conduct the fair for seven years. "They have a pretty good knowledge of terms and anatomy for first-graders."

Clayton James, a firefighter and paramedic in Newport, taught the children about the heart and the importance of a healthy diet, exercising and not smoking.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 3 cause of death nationally for children under the age of 15. Locally, more than 12,000, or 31 percent, of Kentuckians who died in 2000 died from heart disease.

"Obesity in the pediatric age group is a huge problem and growing," said James. "Cardiac risk factors used to start happening to people when they were in their 20s. Now it's when they are 10."

Another risk factor increasing in kids today is tooth decay. The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion said it affects nearly one-fifth of kids ages 2-4, more than half of eight-year-olds and more than three-fourths of 17-year-olds.

Seven-year-old Tyler Wehrman of Crestview Hills said he sometimes eats candy, but not a lot.

"I brush twice a day and I don't even have one cavity," he said. But not all children watch what they eat.

"I think diet is the issue many times, with too many soft drinks and too much snacking," said Mike Cummings, a Fort Mitchell dentist who showed the kids models of good and bad teeth. "I think it's the habit at home that makes the difference."

Registered dietician Alison Way agreed.

"It's got to start at home with the parents," said Way, who taught the kids about the food pyramid. "What they learn now they will carry into adulthood."


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