Dr. Nwando Anyaoku, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey in Newark, knows of a patient who weighs 425 pounds and suffers from a litany of obesity-related problems: she’s had hip and knee replacements, is diabetic, has high blood pressure.
She’s also just 13 years old.
While an extreme case, Anyaoku notes that this young girl is hardly alone amongst her peers: an estimated 45 percent of the city’s youth are overweight or obese. She’s become accustomed to treating children for what in decades past were usually afflictions of the middle-aged or older, like hypertension.
Anyaoku was at Nat Turner Park last week for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the “Born Learning Trail,” a slice of the park dedicated to combatting this worrisome trend by getting kids into the exercise habit early.
The trail “gives children an opportunity to play without thinking of it as work,” Anyaoku said.
A corner of the park now contains brightly painted hopscotch squares and nearly a dozen other “self-guided” play activities designed to get kids moving. The project came about as a result of a collaborative effort by a number of groups, including the United Way of Essex and West Hudson, the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids, the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity and Friends of Nat Turner Park.
Volunteers from YouthBuild, a Newark volunteer organization, performed much of the work.
“This is the culmination of months of hard work and dedication,” said Courtney Price, project manager for the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids.
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