CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Nearly 660,000 people died from heart disease last year. The Medical University of South Carolina has created a new program to help curb these numbers and give kids a jump start on their health.
In between virtual school, 10-year-old Saint Stephen Elementary student Janae Peeples loves to cook, hang out with her family, and enjoys taking dance classes.
Nowadays, Janae says her focus also includes getting healthy. She’s currently one of 400 kids enrolled in MUSC’s pediatric Heart Health Program.
“It has taught me that I need to stay motivated to eat healthy, do healthy and become more healthier,” she said.
Janae has been a part of the program for two years after her pediatrician referred her. Program manager and dietician Janet Carter says the purpose of the program is to help guide kids and their families to a healthier lifestyle through eating and exercise.
“In South Carolina we have a large problem with pediatric obesity and it does create a public health concern for those children, without intervention and without a program like Heart Health, can grow up with more issues and that’s really the major focus is to prevent that from happening,” Carter said.
Carter said the focus is less on a child’s weight but more on changing habits using a three prong approach; first through educating kids about making healthier food choices then by helping them set some goals.
If they are able to choose their own goals for change they are more likely to be successful with these changes instead of someone dictating what they should be doing. For Janae, that also means adding some movement to her day by exercising.
“We start jogging or walking, we try to get a mile or two in, or I dance sometimes or go outside and ride my bike,” she said.
Carter says the third prong to the program involves working with the child’s family to do it together.
“It’s going to help me stay confident in myself and push myself forward and stay strong and become the fit and smart girl I am,” Janae said.
Carter said since the pandemic the pediatric heart health program at MUSC has seen an uptick in new patient referrals.
Right now, all of the weekly meetings, personal coaching and fitness classes are virtual, and they’re still currently enrolling kids.