NEW YORK - A neighborhood report from the East and Central Harlem District Health Office concludes that more than 4 out of every 10 children in Head Start programs and public elementary schools, 1 in every 3 public high school students, and 6 of every 10 adults are overweight or obese in East and Central Harlem. It is no secret that obesity puts you at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. With heart disease still being the leading cause of death in African-Americans, according to the CDC, the estimates of Blacks and Hispanics having a 51% and 21% higher incidence, respectively, of obesity than Whites it is clear that something had to be done to help our community stop the spread of obesity and it’s consequences and risks.
Dance Theatre of Harlem's Aetna Healthy Dancers, Healthy Families Initiative is a multi-year effort to address and combat record obesity levels in Greater Harlem families by involving them in family-wide health activities centered within the Dance Theatre of Harlem's School, which trains up to 500 children and their families from all income levels every year.
Specifically, Dance Theatre of Harlem will expand its current School programs across a 12-month period with 104 new workshops in four new programs aimed at directly involving parents and children in shared training: Health & Diet Workshops , Whole Dancer Workshops, Ballet Fit classes, Adult Ballet classes and Liturgical Dance classes, moderately priced and aimed at improving physical health and combating obesity in East and Central Harlem families.
Dance Theatre of Harlem is already a community gathering place that has touched the lives of countless families during our 42-year history. Now, it becomes the logical home for focused obesity prevention messages. Our School enrolls students as young as three years of age, and is thus ideally positioned to deliver health messages to children and their parents.
At the conclusion of each year of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Aetna Healthy Dancers, Healthy Families Initiative, more than 500 local students and their families will have had access to the new family health programs, and received healthy diet, physical exercise, and obesity prevention materials published by leading health authorities and distributed by Dance Theatre of Harlem to all program participants. Over time, the program can impact a large slice of the at-risk population targeted by government authorities.