August 18, 2017

Kids Camp Trains Children for Healthy Eating, Active Living

Nancy Yuen, Loma Linda University News

The 10th annual Operation Fit, a series of one-week camps for kids, empowered children and families with new tools that will help them live healthier lives. This summer, 30 kids participated in each of the five Operation Fit camps at Loma Linda University Health, which took place from late June to the end of July.

Nearly 1,000 children have attended the student-led camp since it was first held ten years ago, said Marti Baum, assistant professor of pediatrics at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine, a Seventh-day Adventist-operated school in Loma Linda, California, United States.

Operation Fit participants learn to make healthy choices in areas including portion control, reading food labels, choosing food that is colorful on the plate and the importance of physical activity, Baum said.

“In healthcare, physicians often have 15 minutes with a patient,” she said. “I look forward to Operation Fit each year because it is possible to make a bigger impact that can lead to healthy lifestyle changes in children and families.”

Students, faculty and pediatric residents serve as staff for Operation Fit, a series of one-week health camps for kids held each summer at Loma Linda University Drayson Center. [Photo: Loma Linda University News]

Camp alumni, ages 9 to 15, and their parents will now reinforce and build on the new healthy habits learned at Operation Fit during a five-session nutrition series that will be held weekly at SAC Health System, Baum said.

Fun at Operation Fit

Operation Fit camps are led and staffed by medical students, pediatric residents, and nutrition students from the School of Public Health, Baum said. Faculty and administrative leaders include Ernest Medina, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health, and Camille Clarke, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine.

Each summer, participants with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) attend the second week of camp, led by Cameron Neece, associate professor in the department of psychology at Loma Linda University’s School of Behavioral Health, with Catherine Sanner, a student in the clinical psychology doctoral program in the School of Behavioral Health.

Psychology students are also involved in a week of Operation Fit for youth with IDD to provide behavior management for the children. Obesity is a growing and concerning problem among youth with IDD, and this intervention is one of the first projects to address this public health issue. Neece and her team have collected data on the outcomes of this camp for youth with IDD, which has been presented at several national meetings.

Nutrition students prepare healthy snacks and lunches to fuel Operation Fit campers, while medical students lead them on scavenger hunts and in activities that teach healthy habits and active living, Baum said.

Parents learn about their own health Thursday evenings during parent education night as they participate in health screenings conducted by Loma Linda University students and community health workers, Baum said.