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Facility Profile - January 2010

Recreation Fights Diabetes

Wise Kids Program in Corpus Christi, Texas


Corpus Christi, Texas, is a sunny, bustling city of nearly 400,000 people located on the Gulf of Mexico in the coastal bend. Known for its pristine beaches, exceptional sailing and world-class aquarium, Corpus Christi also has one distinction that it would like to change: The area's incidence of diabetes is nearly double the U.S. norm.

One organization that has been working hard to reduce that figure is the Corpus Christi Department of Parks & Recreation. In early 2007 Assistant Director Stacie Talbert attended the National Recreation and Park Association's (NRPA) Health & Livability Summit and heard a presentation by Melissa Hanson, president of the Säjai Foundation. Talbert was intrigued by the foundation's Wise Kids program, which strives to improve the health of children by reaching them in after-school settings with fun, compelling messages about energy balance: Calories in (eating) should equal calories out (activity).

Believing that this simple concept would resonate with children in her after-school programs, Talbert applied for a grant through the Coastal Bend Diabetes Initiative.

That grant was awarded in August 2008, allowing Wise Kids to be integrated into two elementary school latchkey sites and three recreation centers in the fall semester. More than 125 children participated in those programs, and Talbert hoped that what they learned would have a lasting impact on how they viewed food, nutrition and physical activity.

"Our mission is to have children be as healthy as they can be in terms of their nutrition and their activity patterns," Talbert said. "The high diabetes rates here in Corpus Christi are clear signs that we need to change, and I believe that Wise Kids can help us initiate that change with children before they get too ingrained in unhealthy lifestyles. Wise Kids appealed to us because it was a turnkey program that both our program leaders and kids would embrace."

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