Look around the plethora of Atkins ads this time of the year and you would know that America is on a diet. Why is then obesity still a rising epidemic?One problem is socioeconomic disparities. With healthy foods costing more on average than fatty fast foods and snacks, it is hard to tell the financially insecure to give up a week’s worth of boxed macaroni and cheese and spend more on a bag of fresh fruit and vegetables. However, I believe the major problem is lack of health education in the public on how the reading comes about on the scale or what that number actually means. The saddest part is the most vulnerable population is also our future’s brightest minds – the children. With childhood obesity on the rise, we are facing more of its consequences like increased juvenile diabetes and asthma complications. The cycle continues with age, with habits learned in their youth predisposing them to heart disease and cancer. Furthermore, with federal funding cutting back on PE classes and the obsession over video games, inactivity is also adding to the existing poor dietary patterns to accentuate the obesity problem. As future doctors, medical students are capable of helping in the classroom as health educators and should take steps towards braking this deleterious feed-forward cycle, before it is too late.Here at University of Rochester, the medical student groups have started partnerships with inner city schools to teach once weekly after school on topics such as nutrition and exercise. Topics have been recently expanded to include substance abuse and consequences and anger aversion with recruited support from Rochester Police Department. This year, an activity component is added to an initiative program with Quad-A for Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to foster positive after-school programs in Rochester City Schools. In addition to exercising their minds, kids are working off the calories by playing a sport for half of the session. Healthy snack treats are provided by the Wegman’s food stores.In the last year of volunteering, I have found that most kids would choose the nutritious options and lead healthier lives if they are only shown how and why. The desire is there, with most kids knowing someone in their family who suffers from mal consequences of high blood pressure and diabetes. Often, they just need some direction, knowledge, a good example and someone to believe in their future. Join in the support and pitch in whatever you can contribute. Rochester’s at-risk youth depends on the growth of such programs. You will find in the end that the biggest reward of such community outreach is what the kids teach you – the difference that you can make. Wu can be reached at jwu@campustimes.org.

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