FORT HOOD, Texas - With more than a dozen fast food restaurants in the immediate area, pulling into a drive-thru and placing an order is no hassle. It may be okay to splurge on French fries occasionally. The problem begins when it becomes routine.

That is why Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center is teaming up with its adopted school, Saegert Elementary School, and the Killeen Independent School District to sponsor a Health and Wellness Day at the second annual KISD Family Wellness Conference 2009. The conference will be held at the Jackson Professional Learning Center, Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Ultimately, parents are their children's first role model and decisions made today can affect the health of both children and parents. With childhood obesity on the rise and adult obesity almost an epidemic, parents are encouraged to start changing their family's eating habits.

"I help parents help their children be more successfulA,A," said Olga Vaca Durr, parent, and community involvement coordinator for KISD. "I focus on healthier food options, academic behavior, whether they are going through a crisis and need resources, skills on how to do homework, or baby sign classes. There is a lot we do to help parents so they in turn can help their children," Durr added.

"The goal of the health fair is to educate parents and kids on building better eating habits and tackling obesity, allergies and nutrition," said Durr. The free event is open to children currently enrolled in any KISD school. "The children can bring their parents, grandparents, or the next door neighbor that takes care of them," said Durr.

"The health and wellness day with our Adopted School is a crucial event," said
Capt. Beverly A. VanTull, commander of Co. A at Darnall and the adopted school liaison. "We want to ensure health and wellness education is not only all about Soldiers but about their families, civilians, and community.

VanTull explained many of Darnall's staff and employees have children enrolled the KISD.

"It's really about giving back to the community AND developing healthy future leaders. If we don't stand up, set the standard, and reach out, who will' Each one reaches one, each one teaches one," VanTull said.

Last year's conference focused on diabetes and its affect on children and adults. The discussions were especially helpful to parents whose children had been diagnosed with diabetes.

"We have parents that are diabetics, and they learn a great deal on how to deal with the disease and also how to lower their numbers, and maybe get off of their insulin shots," said Durr. "We try to do our best to provide the knowledge that parents need to delay or event prevent diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or allergies.".

The conference's opening presentation, titled "Are You Killing Your Kids'" will talk about childhood obesity rates of children and how more children are becoming overweight.

"A young child does not become overweight because he or she went shopping at the grocery store and purchased the wrong foods. Mom and Dad bought them and mom and dad are the ones allowing them to eat the food. We want moms and dads to learn, and we want kids to learn too," said Durr.

The focus of this year's Family Wellness Conference is to teach parents to prepare healthier foods for their children and to learn how to incorporate healthy eating habits when eating out. The conference will feature healthy cooking demonstrations for parents and taste testing for the kids. "We are looking at issues that deal with children's health but that also affects adults," said Durr.

Darnall's Health and Wellness Day will have medical professionals on site to talk to parents and children about preventive medicine, obesity warning signs, nutrition, infection control, and allergies. Each session will be about 30 minutes long for adults and about 15 minutes for children. Children three years or younger must remain with their parent and Pre-K and older will be separated into grade-level sessions.

"The sessions are very effective; I've heard stories about the kids correcting their parents, so we want kids to remember what's important just as much as we want the parents to know what's important for their kids," said Durr.

Statics show if you are healthy, you have better grades, better attendance, less aches and pains in your body, and fewer health problems. Many health problems children are experiencing is due to being overweight.

To get children interested in health and wellness, the conference is featuring an exercise session called "Funnercise."

"Think about how much better you feel when you're ten pounds lighter," said Durr. "Imagine a child that is four years old and weighs 100 pounds; it's hard for them to get around. I hope that this conference will help parents and children focus on a healthy daily life," she added.

"Kids immediately start making habits, and parents are the source of those habits for the most part," said Spc. Lydia Van Achthoven, a Greenville, Calif. native. "As a kid, I always drank milk and played outside because of my parents, and those were healthy choices."

Van Achthoven, administrative NCO for the medical center's Command Sergeant Major, heard about Darnall's adopted school and jumped at the chance to get involved.

"I plan to have them doing a few exercises like jumping jacks, Iron Mikes push-ups and sit-ups and I'll be bring some prizes with me as an incentive," Van Achthoven said.

While volunteering her time at the conference, Van Achthoven said she hopes to accomplish a personal objective. "I have a list of personal goals and one of them is to make a difference in someone's life. If I can change the lives of only two kids in my group that will make me happy because I know I've made an impact in my community," she said.

As warmer months roll around kids are at risk of for insect bites and bee stings. To help parents learn how to detect allergic reactions and the affects it may have on a child, Darnall's laboratory services will have a session.

"Your child might experience an allergic reaction and you don't know it. Knowing the signs of an allergic reaction may help you in that situation," said Durr.

Parents and children who register by May 8 and attend the conference will be treated to healthy snacks during the morning and a healthy lunch. A car seat safety inspection and proper installation will be available. Representatives from a foster care agency within the district will be on hand.

"What we hope to accomplish is that maybe someone doesn't become a diabetic or over weight, maybe a parent takes what they learned and teaches their kids what to eat to keep them healthy and they have a healthy life for the rest of their life," said Durr.

Registration forms are available in all schools within the KISD or download the form online at www.killeenisd.org. Competed forms can be dropped off at the school or faxed to 254-501-1688. On-site registration is available but does not guarantee lunch. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m.

Page last updated Wed May 6th, 2009 at 17:58