KOKOMO, Ind. — A healthy lifestyle begins with healthy habits – no matter the age.
That’s what FIT Camp is all about this summer – promoting health and wellness among children ages six to 10.
Faculty and students at Indiana University Kokomo will create a fun and educational atmosphere during the weeklong day camp that teaches about fitness and good nutrition. Student-athletes will serve as mentors, sharing skills and offering up some high-fives. The camp is organized by the School of Nursing and Allied Health Professions.
“In health care, we’re looking for ways to be proactive in promoting healthy living and wellness, rather than just reacting in treating diseases,” said Samantha Fouts, clinical assistant professor of nursing, who is leading this year’s camp.
The camp will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning Monday, June 13, through Friday, June 17, with drop off at the Kelley Student Center on the IU Kokomo campus. Cost is $40 for the week, with financial assistance available through camperships.
“Knowing that diabetes and heart disease and hypertension are some of the common chronic conditions we see in our adult population, if we can reach the kids earlier and teach them better ways to promote health in their own lives, hopefully over time we can decrease some of the health problems we see in our adult populations,” Fouts said.
The camp has had an impact, with more than 6,700 children attending since it was founded in 1997 as an educational program for those with asthma and/or diabetes. It later expanded to include healthy living, and completely shifted focus to health and wellness in 2017. More than 300 nursing students have served as camp counselors.
Fouts noted that CDC data shows improvement — Indiana used to have nearly 37 percent of children considered to be obese or overweight, based on weight and height. Currently, 30 percent are in that range.
“There are improvements being made, but we still have quite a bit of work to do,” she said.
Students in a summer pediatric nursing class will develop nutrition lessons based on the My Plate program, to teach how to choose healthy foods for a balanced diet. There will also be plenty of physical activity. IU Kokomo student athletes will lead games and drills for the campers for 90 minutes to two hours of each day.
“I know our athletes will come in with a focus on teaching their sport, but it even further enhances the camp by just giving the kids a chance to interact with them,” she added.
A bonus to the program is that participants can positively impact their families by taking home what they’ve learned — maybe suggesting a family walk to get everyone active or asking for fruits and vegetables they’ve tried at camp.
The nursing students who lead camp also benefit, learning how to advocate for wellness and use their skills to benefit others.
“It’s important that our school has a voice in the community,” she said. “We have a lot of knowledge and expertise we can share. It’s important that our students get out there and use the knowledge and skills they’ve learned in school to positively support and promote health in our community.”