Education Helps Grow Fit Kids

Kids playing soccer.
Childhood fitness is the goal of Department
of Pediatrics Associate Professor Aaron
Carrel, MD. His work aims to prevent obesity
and diabetes, and encourage exercise, in
children throughout Wisconsin.

Department of Pediatrics Associate Professor Aaron Carrel, MD, has a big mission: to prevent obesity and diabetes, and promote fitness, in children. As a physician, researcher, and ultimately an educator, he has found innovative ways to help children throughout Wisconsin lead healthier lives.

Teaching Professional Students… for the Long Run

Two years ago, Dr. Carrel, with collaborators from the Department of Family Medicine and the Wisconsin Department of Health, developed “Prevention of Overweight and Obesity,” a new graduate-level course for students of medicine and public health.

The course focuses primarily on preventing obesity in children, though it also addresses family, community, and public policy factors applicable to people of all ages.

What’s more, the course teaches the art of project implementation. Through each assignment, students learn how to develop the sections of a grant proposal. Two student proposals have even received funding: one focused on prevention of excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and one evaluated nutrition education and impact in preschool children.

Serving Wisconsin Communities

Dr. Carrel’s work has extended far beyond the classroom, too. He has been the academic partner for three community-based projects funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program:

  • “Got Dirt?” - a school and community garden initiative aimed at increasing children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables;
  • “Fit Kids, Fit Cities” - which promoted collaboration among organizations to promote health and fitness in select Wisconsin communities; and
  • “Wisconsin Partnership for Childhood Fitness” - a joint project with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that trains teachers and evaluates fitness in middle-school children statewide.

Dr. Carrel is currently partnering with the Dane County YMCA to evaluate the effect of an afterschool cardiovascular fitness program in five elementary schools around Madison.

Educating Patients in the Clinic

Even Dr. Carrel’s clinical work has a strong educational component. In the pediatric fitness clinic he leads, he and his colleagues teach children and their families enjoyable, effective ways to improve their health and fitness.

In the end, all of his efforts align under a common goal: to raise awareness of the problems of obesity and diabetes, and show teachers, families, communities, and children themselves how to make positive changes.

Call it three-dimensional education. For health, and for life.