Muppets mini-makeover aims to boost kids’ health

Photo credit:CBS News

The Sesame Project has given the Muppets a healthy makeover. Bert and Ernie are more active and eating healthy foods, and the Cookie Monster is cutting back on his sweet tooth. But how does the Sesame Project impact kids’ health?

A three year study in South America and an initial test in New York City show that the new and improved Muppets are making a positive impact. A test in a preschool in New York City helped teach children about healthy foods they had never been exposed to before at home. Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, says that 3-5-year-olds are at an age where they pay attention to what’s going on around them, so it’s a good time to form those healthy habits.

Obesity now affects a third of U.S. youth, and children aren’t getting enough exercise, leading experts to start prevention methods with children at younger ages. Jorge Baxter, regional director for Latin America for Sesame Workshop, says, “While Cookie Monster is an engaging figure, we felt there was an opportunity there to really model healthy eating.” The new message from Sesame is that cookies are something to enjoy occasionally, while other foods like vegetables can be eaten all the time. Sesame Street has even introduced a Muppet doctor character, Dr. Ruster.

In South America, kids who participated in the Sesame Project watched daily videos on the body and how it works, played games, sang songs, made posters and took part in other activities. Their parents were given take-home assignments to help them get their children to be better eaters and to be more active, through methods such as taking the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. Researchers found that the children knew more about living a healthy lifestyle as a result. Plus, the number of kids who were at a healthy weight increased by over 10%.

As Dr. Jaime Cespedes, a pediatric and heart specialist who helped lead the project in Columbia, says, “Sesame knows kids, knows media and how to communicate the messages. When you get the kids to deliver the message to the family, change will come.”

CBS News, 1/23/14

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