Charlotte Perkins, the performance management officer for Bon Secours Virginia Health System, has recently taken on a role in Movin’ Mania, a new health initiative in Richmond that kicked off last week at the Science Museum of Virginia.
Passionate about what she does, Perkins says that much of her desire to help children stems from her grandson, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. While she says that not eating properly and being overweight can result in Type 2 diabetes, a person can have Type 1 (sometimes called insulin-dependent or juvenile-onset diabetes) because their pancreas is not producing enough insulin.
“I see what he deals with every day and what he goes through,” says Perkins. “When I think of what obesity will make other children go through — that’s what makes me passionate.”
Recognizing the health risks that accompany obesity, Perkins and her colleagues decided that they needed to work to drastically change the way people look at their health.
“About a year and a half ago, our CEO said to us ‘As part of the mission of Bon Secours, it’s our duty and obligation to provide good health to our communities, as well as to provide, educate and help empower our communities around health-related issues,’ ” she says.
Perkins says that she and her co-workers created focus groups for children and their parents. By doing this, they were able to gather information to craft a message that they could send out to the community to encourage healthy behaviors like exercising and eating well.
“There are all kinds of things out there, but there isn’t a place that kind of brings it together in an umbrella,” Perkins says. “We want to work with these organizations to give parents one place they can go to see what the city is doing that is safe and fun.”
Although Movin’ Mania promotes physical activity, the creators of the initiative realize that not every child will be able to jump right into a daily routine of playing sports or working out. After speaking with a series of children, Perkins and her colleagues came to the conclusion that the kids weren’t likely to give up video games anytime soon.
In an effort to shift their attention, at least for a while, Movin’ Mania will soon have its own form of a video game in which players can receive healthy items like vegetables that help them gain power. The hope is that children will learn to avoid choosing junk food. In addition, the game will stop and tell the player when he or she has been playing too long.
Movin’ Mania also plans to offer healthy recipes, provided by organizations like the American Heart Association. Perkins says that the goal is to have families print these nutritious recipes, shop for the ingredients, and cook the finished product together.
Similarly, parents will be able to track foods their children eat through the main website. With each vegetable consumed or any protein gained, site users will begin to earn points. After receiving a certain amount, they can use their points toward an assortment of prizes like soccer balls and bicycles as a means of entertainment and fitness.
Movin’ Mania wants to teach children and parents alike that with a few tools, they can all accomplish healthier lifestyles and defeat obesity. The program will offer a classroom toolkit for Richmond area schools and sponsor school and community events throughout the year, leading to a Movin’ Mania 5K walk next spring.