Future School, Mercy Partner to Fight Obesity

One of the best ways to prevent obesity is to form healthy habits early in life. That’s why Mercy and Future School of Fort Smith have created an innovative partnership that teaches health literacy to high school students.

The partnership is part of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement’s Healthy Active Arkansas initiative. A Mercy and Future School case study is part of a series of studies highlighting success stories across the state.

Allison Montiel, principal of Future School, set up the partnership when she was in a community health education role at Mercy in Fort Smith. She’s used her experience in education and healthcare to develop and teach a health class that exposes the students to healthy activities and life skills including yoga, meditation, shopping for healthy foods, and reading nutrition labels.

“Health Literacy for Smart People is a class that gives students real-life experience in promoting healthy behaviors,” Montiel said, adding that the students are modeling the real-world mission of Future School by taking what they’ve learned and applying it.

Future School students developed a curriculum to teach fifth-grade students at Howard Elementary School the importance of healthy eating and drinking water. Other high school students drafted and submitted grant proposals to replace water fountains with water bottle filling stations at Future School and Howard Elementary.

Obesity causes or exacerbates numerous chronic diseases and conditions that can lead to death, including diabetes and hypertension. Healthy Active Arkansas’ 10-year goal is to increase the percentage of Arkansans who are at a healthy weight. More than a third of Arkansans are obese.

“Mercy’s mission is much more than treating and healing the sick but also to help the community become healthier,” said Father Paul Fetsko, director of mission and ethics at Mercy in Fort Smith. “By partnering with Future School, we’re able to promote a wellness message to younger audiences.”