SC State's summer Health and Wellness Camp focuses on obesity and diabetes in rural SC teens

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

SC State's summer Health and Wellness Camp focuses on obesity and diabetes in rural South Carolina teens (Photo: Rolondo Davis, SCSU)ORANGEBURG – Ryan Blocker has Type 2 diabetes.


Before he was aware that he had diabetes, he went through changes in his sleeping patterns, had difficulty controlling his emotions and behavior and was frequently thirsty.


Today, he controls his diabetes by eating “healthy” foods, taking his medications correctly, and through daily exercise.


“Diabetes has really taught me to become a responsible young man through watching my diet and managing my lifestyle,” said Blocker. Moreover, he has played a significant role in helping his peers understand the seriousness of obesity and diabetes.


Blocker and other teens are attending a summer Health and Wellness Camp sponsored by 1890 Research at SC State University. There are 28 camp participants, including 18 females and 10 males. The camp began on Monday, June 4, 2007, and continues through Friday, June 22.


As with Blocker, diabetes and obesity are topics that touch the majority of the camp’s participants personally.


Data from the Body Mass Index (BMI) administered at the beginning of the camp showed the vast majority of the participants enrolled in the camp were overweight or obese. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 suggests overweight, while a BMI of 30 indicates obesity. And, based on focus group discussions, all of the campers stated that they had at least one family member that is either overweight or has diabetes.


Current data indicates that nearly 12 percent of all South Carolina high school students are overweight. When examined across race and ethnicity in the Palmetto State, a larger proportion of African Americans in the state are overweight or obese (72.3%) as compared to Hispanics (62.9%) and Whites (55.8%).


Individuals who are overweight or obese have increased odds of developing chronic diseases; those who are obese are at the greatest risk. Obesity is associated with more than 30 million diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancers (such as endometrial, breast, prostate and colon). Overweight children and adolescents are also more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes.


The primary goals of the 1890 Research Health and Wellness Summer Camp and research project (entitled “An Impact Study of The Relationship Between Healthy Eating/Healthy Lifestyles and Cognitive/Academic Development in Adolescence in Rural South Carolina”) are:

  • To increase participants’ knowledge about health, nutrition, and healthy lifestyles;
  • To change participants’ attitudes about eating healthy food and daily exercise;
  • To reduce the number of overweight and obese participants; and
  • To determine the relationship (if any) between the “Healthy Eating” and “Healthy Lifestyles” project and cognitive/academic development of the participants.


The purpose of the three-week summer camp is to determine the effectiveness of the “Healthy Eating” and “Healthy Lifestyles” research project as related to the goals above. The participants are exposed to approximately 35 workshops that focus on content related to:

  1. cognitive/academic development (reading, mathematics, and biology);
  2. nutrition;
  3. health;
  4. recreation; and
  5. healthy lifestyles.


The camp participants have also been involved in several field trips, including visits to a livestock farm in Bowman, S.C.; Water Plant in Orangeburg, S.C.; a scavenger hunt in an Orangeburg Wal-Mart; Red Wing Skating Rink in Columbia, S.C.; Paramount’s Carowinds Theme Park in Charlotte, N.C.; and Frankie’s Fun Park in Columbia, S.C.


However, the highlights of the camp have been the “cooking” classes. Students are making a variety of healthy snacks, including fruit kabobs, peanut butter bars, trail mix, caesar salad, turkey and swiss cheese wraps, BLTs, chicken salad, tuna salad, dirt pudding, fruit parfait and heavenly hash.


Additionally, some of the other workshop topics and discussion were: Eating Healthy at Your Favorite Restaurants; My Food Pyramid, Serving Sizes, Daily Values & Nutrition Facts, Calculating Your Individual Caloric Intake; How Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats are Digested, the Functions of Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats, etc.


Each day ends with a period of reflection. Campers are served a final nutritious snack and divided into focus groups. At the end of the focus groups’ discussion, campers record the following information in the Health and Wellness Journals before retiring for the evening:

  • Descriptions of workshop sessions attended during the day;
  • Record of what was eaten during the day;
  • Computations of the number of calories consumed;
  • Analysis of recreational activities;
  • Reflections on experiences during the day.


At the conclusion of the camp, the participants will be challenged to maintain and sustain gains made during the summer by attending sessions during the regular after-school program sponsored by the SC State University Family Life Center at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. Participants will be observed during the year as follows: 1) watch their diets to determine if they are selecting and eating nutritious foods; 2) changes in their BMI; 3) exercise at least 30 minutes daily (especially walking); 4) changes in attitudes toward selecting and eating healthy foods; 5) changes in attitude about exercise and dieting; and 6) recording this and other information in their journals. Participants’ journals will be checked twice a month during the 2007 – 2008 academic year.


The Health and Wellness project is funded by the Evan-Allan Research Program through SC State’s 1890 Research and Extension program. The research staff includes LaTonya Capers, assistant to the director; Ericka Lynch, coordinator; and Drs. Martha Jean Adams-Heggins and Necati Engec, co-principal investigators.


For additional information on the Health and Wellness Camp, contact Robert Phillips, assistant administrator of 1890 Research at (803) 536-7189 or