Kaitlin Walter

Fifteen Cincinnati public schools will be participating in the Partners For School Health initiative this year, a program affiliated with the American Heart Association.

Approximately 20 Miami University students will also be involved with the program, under the leadership of Randal Claytor, associate professor of kinesiology and health at Miami.

The Partners For School Health program is based out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and, according to Claytor, attempts to incorporate a more rigorous physical education curriculum for elementary school students-with the hope to gradually increase the level of physical activity.

Majoring in everything from dietetics to psychology, participating Miami students are currently being trained to administer FITNESSGRAM tests to 2,500 students in fourth through sixth grade.

A FITNESSGRAM consists of sit-ups, push-ups, trunk lifts, a 20-yard sprint, as well as a stretch and reach test, according to Claytor.

“The FITNESSGRAM test is used by a lot of schools and organizations, such as the YMCA, to determine the aerobic and endurance levels of kids, as well as their muscular strength,” Claytor said.

The students’ training includes watching a video from the American Heart Association, which outlines how to administer the five tests, and how to interact with the students and teachers during the testing process, Claytor explained.

“The students started training during the second week of school,” Claytor said. “We’re doing training and practice at least once a week in the evenings in the Phillips Hall gyms.”

According to Claytor, the program will first detect how many kids fall into healthy and unhealthy fitness ranges, and then will measure the same students at the end of the year to see if there has been any improvement with their fitness.

Claytor said that he believes it is important for young students to learn the importance of being physically active, so as they grow up, they can develop and retain healthy physical habits.

“Approximately 30 percent of kids are overweight,” Claytor said. “That is one-third. Of the 30 percent, about 18 percent are considered to be obese, and that percentage has tripled in the last 30 years. Kids don’t grow out of obesity-it tracks into adulthood. The dangers of being overweight include higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and a host of other diseases.”

The program is in its first year, and Miami the only school currently participating.

Claytor said he discovered the program while working in the pediatric cardiology department at Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The program has received several grants from private institutions around the country-an amount totaling $6 million. Claytor said each participating school receives $5,000 to buy physical activity equipment, as well as to train teachers and students.

Claytor said that a similar program is now in its third year in Cleveland.

Michael Bush-Arnold, a senior exercise science major, is one of the students involved with the health initiative.

“I chose to become involved in the Partners For Student Health program because I am interested in (preventing) childhood obesity and the program gave me an opportunity to make a difference,” Bush-Arnold said.

When it comes to how much time to invest into the program, Bush-Arnold said the choice is up to the participants.

“You can choose to participate for a semester, the year, or multiple years, if you are a sophomore or junior,” he said. “How involved you are is up to you; if you just want to administer the FITNESSGRAM and leave, that is fine, but you can also stay and help faculty develop a wellness program for students.”

The experience is considered an internship and is not affiliated with any course at Miami.

According to Claytor, the program could have up to 30 participating schools next year, which means more students will be needed to conduct FITNESSGRAMS and help with wellness programming.