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Distance learning helps build healthy families

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With childhood obesity on the rise, it's estimated that 1 in 3 children have issues with their weight. Now, an outreach program called Building Healthy Families is trying to change that.

"It's 12 weeks, they get to do fun, interactive nutrition education, some physical activity and [then] we talk about behavior modification and how you change the environment at home. We work with the whole family on basically making healthier choices," explains Professor of Exercise Science at UNK, Kate Heelan.

After having success in Kearney, program organizers wanted to expand. "We received a grant from the rural future institute to use distance education as a way of connecting with other communities," say Heelan.

Thanks to distance learning, now when there's an educator here in the kitchen at UNK, families in McCook and Broken Bow can begin building their healthy lifestyles. "I think it's [going to] be a real fun thing for families to do and then it could be a life changing experience for these families," says Custer County Extension Educator, Jessye Goertz.

Organizers say the fact that the whole family is required to attend the meetings is pivotal for a child's success.

"It doesn't work if just mom and daughter come to the program and dad is cooking at home and brother is picking up fast food... it needs to be something the whole family takes ownership of and they all work together and create a social environment that they can be successful," Heelan tells us.

While the Building Healthy Families program only meets for three months, organizers are confident they're teaching skills that will last a lifetime.

"We all develop bad habits overtime and so it's important to work with kids very early on in determining what are healthy food choices and what are unhealthy food choices and to learn that healthy foods are everywhere," says Heelan.

To see if this program is right for you and your family, there will be an informational meeting on February 15th at the Mid-Plains Community College in Broken Bow at 6 p.m. If you have questions about the course, call Jessye Goertz at 308-872-6831.

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