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Syracuse City School District partners with American Heart Association to improve student health

Ellen Abbott
Students at Seymour Dual Language Academy in Syracuse exercise with the American Heart Association

The Syracuse City School District is joining forces with the American Heart Association to try to fight childhood obesity.

According to the AHA, about 37 percent of Syracuse City School District students are overweight or obese, higher than the nationwide average of 30 percent. So, it is taking a fundraising program called Growing Healthy Hearts and adapting it to five elementary schools in the district. 

AHA Executive Director Franklin Fry said it involves prizes for healthy habits, through special access to health activities, and messages with different themes each month. For example, this month, the theme is drink water instead of sugary beverages.

“The messaging is pretty basic as to what’s out there,” Fry said. “We’re trying to not just reinforce it but make it more engaging and fun. So when kids come home with something on their backpack, so parents can say what’s that, and start the conversations at home, as well.”

Syracuse Superintendent Jaime Alicea said the district is also making efforts to expand healthy lifestyle lessons in other ways.

“This past year, we added six more physical ed teachers for the elementary level,” Alicea said. “We want to make sure we get the kids early, from kindergarten all the way to sixth grade, to get them active and learn about being healthy.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.