Dearborn Public Schools students will soon have a new tool at their disposal for learning to make healthy choices.
The myNutratek website, which will be accessible through the school district, is a complex nutrition and exercise tracker aimed at teaching children how what they eat and how much they move affects their health in a way that empowers them, said Sean Bumstead, the chief information officer of My Nutratek.
“We like to think of ourselves as parents," Bumstead said. “Schools are looking for ways to teach children about nutrition–we designed this in a way that will appeal to children. It’s brightly-colored and easy to use, but it provides a lot of information.”
myNutratek, which has partnered with Dearborn-based for a community roll out, was discussed at the Dearborn Board of Education meeting March 12, where board members expressed support for such a program.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I would like the schools to encourage them to investigate it,” said Board Vice President Pamela Adams said.
The program will be accessible to students at no cost to the district, said Bob Cipriano, the director of business services for the schools.
Childhood health issues–especially obesity–have been a topic of intense discussion nationally as the number of young people facing serious health issues increases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 who are considered obese spiked from 7 percent in 1980 to 20 percent in 2008, leaving open the door to chronic ailments like asthma and diabetes.
Michele Strasz, the executive director of the Lansing-based Schools-Community Health Alliance of Michigan, said schools have a stake in the health of their students.
“We know that children cannot lean if they are not health, and we are seeing an increased concern from schools regarding the health of their students,” she said. “Schools are looking for tools that are low cost and effective to assist their students and families.”
How myNutratek Works
Once a student or parent logs into myNutratek, a myriad of information awaits them, Bumstead said.
Nutritional values are assigned to food items served during lunch, as well as values to determine how much energy is expended through physical exercises. Parents begin the analysis by entering their child’s height, weight and age to determine his or her body mass index. From there, the child can catalog their food intake and exercise for a better snapshot of how their daily habits help–or hurt–their health.
However, Bumstead said the site is also presented in such a way that it is not punitive for children.
“There’s a tremendous amount of math behind the site so children and parents can track activity,” he said. “But you won’t see the word ‘obesity’ anywhere on our site.”
Mary Zatina, the senior vice president of government relations and corporate communications for Oakwood Healthcare, said the hospital network is backing myNutratek because it encourages young people to take a pro-active approach to health.
“This is part of our mission,” she said. “Healthcare is going in a preventative direction, and it’s part of our mission to encourage healthy living–especially among children.”
Because the partnership between the schools and myNutratek is still being finalized, it’s difficult to tell how the website will be utilized in the classroom. Cipriano said that once the agreement is signed, there will be a portal on the district’s website that can be accessed.
What is certain is that district officials are working to identify tools to help students develop health habits sooner, as opposed to later.
“It’s really a way for students to gain a better understanding of nutrition and be healthier,” said Supt. Brian Whiston.