As a family physician who serves Detroit’s Mexicantown community, Richard Bryce, DO, has seen the havoc obesity can wreak on children’s health.
When one of his young patients, a 10-year-old girl who weighed 200 pounds, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Bryce decided it was time to approach the problem from a new angle, so he spearheaded the creation of a healthy lifestyle boot camp for kids.
Dr. Bryce is a family medicine physician at Detroit’s Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS). In June, he enlisted 10 young patients from CHASS to participate in the boot camp, which included a 5K walk through downtown Detroit and up 26 flights of stairs at a high-rise hotel, plus a session on healthy eating with nutrition expert Marc Ramirez. Afterward, the parent of a participant vowed to remove Coca-Cola from his home.
“Too often in health care, we focus on medicine, surgery, or treatment when we could better serve patients by focusing on how to live a healthier life,” Dr. Bryce says.
The event was organized with the help of Dr. Bryce’s CHASS colleagues, as well as student volunteers from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine-Detroit Medical Center, where he is a professor.
Children from immigrant and underserved households are at greater risk for obesity and related health problems, according to the Food Research and Action Center.
In an effort to address these challenges, CHASS hosts an open air farmer’s market that provides access to fresh fruits and vegetables for the center’s clients as well as the surrounding community.
“We have a fresh prescription program, where we prescribe fruits and vegetables to our patients with chronic diseases like diabetes,” Dr. Bryce explains.
After completing the boot camp, each youngster received tokens to purchase fruits and vegetables at the market.
New faces, new places
In addition to opening a dialogue around diet and exercise, the boot camp broadened horizons for some young participants who had never visited downtown Detroit, despite its close proximity to their homes just a few miles away, Dr. Bryce says. “The kids got to see Canada across the Detroit River and the Ambassador Bridge for the first time,” he adds.
Dr. Bryce hopes to extend the duration of the program and is looking forward to doing it again next summer.