Bronx declares war on diabetes

Ened Fredrick, a 17-year-old Hispanic student in her last year of high school, found out on National Food Day that in the Bronx, the problem of obesity and being overweight will cause 50% of the children born in the borough to suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives.

Fredrick is afraid of developing diabetes or other illnesses given her poor eating habits and the few extra pounds she has, so she accepted the Family Health Challenge: the last stage in the health initiative the Bronx CAN (Change Attitudes Now).

The challenge, developed by the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center and other organizations, provides information to young people and their families about the health crisis in local neighborhoods that result from eating habits and a lack of exercise.

“I’m going to take the challenge and teach my family about it, so that we can learn to eat healthier and avoid getting sick,” said Fredrick.

Gustavo Rivera

Gustavo Rivera (José Acosta/EDLP)

The Bronx CAN program is run by the office of State Senator Gustavo Rivera, together with the Bronx borough president. They started the program in June with the goal of educating the community on how to create better eating habits.

To demonstrate to Fredrick (and to the dozens of students at the Catholic school, Academy of Mount St. Ursula, who attended the kickoff event for the challenge) that the Bronx CAN works, Rivera got on the scale. In June, he promised to lose 20 pounds. He now weighs 283 pounds. He had lost 16 so far.

“The Bronx CAN isn’t only about losing weight; it helps you stay healthy every day,” said Rivera. “The message is that we can make better decisions to stay in good health, like not drinking sugary beverages, eating smaller portions and exercising regularly,” Rivera added.

Dr. David Appel, director of the health program at Montefiore Hospital, explained that the Family Health Challenges teaches participants about making new healthy decisions every week, like not drinking sodas for one week, eating a vegetable a day and becoming involved in community-wide efforts.

“The pamphlet that explains the challenge will be circulated in more than 50 public schools through the Montefiore clinics, and many schools are very excited about it,” said Appel.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. revealed that although he likes his wife’s cooking more than his mother’s, he decided to eat smaller portions to improve his health, and he stated that the program aims to create “a healthier Bronx for everyone.”

The program will happen every year from now on. To participate and find out about upcoming events, visit www.bronxcan.com.

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