HUNTINGTON -- Binnie Howard
sees wonders every day at work.
Howard, a registered nurse who serves as director of the Regional Heart Institute at St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, said a program designed to boost local children's health is working wonders.
"We've seen a big decrease in the blood pressure and cholesterol numbers for the young people in our HEART program," Howard
"We're doing a lot of good."
Trouble is, the program known as HEART, an acronym for Helping Educators Attack Risk cardiovascular factors Together, can reach only a fraction of the number of West Virginia youth at risk for developing heart disease, Howard
Funding for the program is provided by the hospital's foundation.
"There is such a huge need," Howard
"We encourage children to take part in a walking program and they get rewarded for making healthy food choices," Howard
"We take them to the grocery store and teach them how to read food labels.
We offer cooking classes so that the young people can learn how to prepare meals that are good for them."
During the initial 12-week program, instructors also guide the young people in learning about healthy snacking, portion control and how to choose wisely when dining at fast-food restaurants, Howard
Participants also try out a wide range of exercise options such as volleyball, flag football, Dance Dance Revolution, Tai Chi and Zumba.
Once the 12 weeks end, participants may enter a one-year maintenance program in which they set personal fitness goals and periodically meet with a dietitian and exercise coach.
They also can continue to use the hospital's wellness facility for workouts.
continues to work to secure additional funding to expand the program.
"I want to be able to offer this kind of help to any child anywhere," she