CALEXICO — Kids and their parents gathered to gain instruction on improving dietary habits and physical fitness at Heffernan’s Wellness 4 Kids monthly nutritional follow-up program at the site’s gym located on Birch Street in Calexico May 7.
According to organizers, Dr. Tristan, Dr. Barajas’ outpatient center, and Clinicas del Pueblo refer certain patients who fall under a set-criteria to the Heffernan Wellness 4 Kids Program.
Problems in blood chemistry are diagnosed to detect anything that is out of range and then patients are channeled to the program (HW4 Kids) which is geared to educate and enhance nutrition and exercise.
A file is then handed over to Dr. Lopez, and based on health issues, an individualized target weight program is formed.
“We do appointments and blood test check-ups from which an exercise and nutritional regimen is created in an attempt to reverse those metabolic issues that [kids] may have such as fatty liver, thyroid ailments, and obesity, etc.,” said nutritionist Dr. Miguel Angel Lopez. “Of the previously mentioned health issues, proper nutrition is the main way to attack such conditions.”
There are individual follow-ups and group sessions that are held twice a month for further general instruction and to answer a parent’s questions.
“We would like to have this program implemented in all cities of the Imperial Valley, but it is currently only available in Calexico,” said Dr. Lopez.
Experts say the number one factor in the health issues they see in kids is the food they eat.
“All the junk food that is consumed is filled with a lot of ingredients that are causing all these problems,” said Dr. Lopez. “Bad eating habits have gotten to the point to where now there are more diabetic cases in kids.”
Nutritionists suggest poor eating habits and lack of exercise are the leading factors in creating that “li’l monster” inside that needs to be exterminated.
“When there is an intense addiction to food and lack of motivation to exercise, it becomes difficult for parents to help [physicians] at that point,” said Dr. Lopez. “Even the transitional stage in departure from poor eating habits is very difficult because the addictions are already in place. It is incredibly difficult but not impossible.”
Twenty to thirty percent of enrollees graduate from the program when their target weight is satisfied, while some stay and continue on another regimen or depart to make space for new patients.