Contact: Abigail Fota, College Relations Associate - Media, 610-703-9450

Program Improves the Health and Self-Esteem of Local Teen Mothers

Allentown, PA (May 10, 2004) - There are over 6,000 teenage mothers and expectant teenage mothers in Allentown. Facing issues such as low self-esteem, lack of an adequate support system and limited exposure to regular exercise and nutrition programming, these young women often form poor lifestyle habits. To combat this trend, Cedar Crest College, through its Rodale Aquatic Center and the Allen Center for Nutrition, has developed Healthy for You, Healthy for Two, a model program of nutrition and aquatic exercise that benefits disadvantaged, pregnant and parenting teens in the Lehigh Valley.

Every Monday, a group of students from William Allen High School is brought to the Rodale Aquatic Center where they participate in an aqua-aerobics class especially designed for expectant or new mothers. Following the exercise, the students participate in a discussion about nutrition and are served a healthy snack. The program runs for seven weeks and repeats in the summer with a new group of students.

"Pregnant youth are an incredibly high-risk group for obesity and sedentary behavior," says Jane Ziegler, Director of the Allen Center for Nutrition. According to the Allentown Health Bureau, center-city Allentown currently has a higher obesity rate than the surrounding areas, and a higher obesity rate than the national average. "The goal of this program is to instill healthy behaviors amongst these teens and to encourage them to exercise and develop healthy eating habits at a young age," says Ziegler. "Hopefully the young parents will instill this behavior with their children."

While studies show that, nationally, teen births are on the decline, Hispanic youths remain at an increased risk. The percentage of births to mothers under age 18 in Lehigh County is 4.2 percent among the general population; that same statistic among Hispanic teens is 13.5 percent.

As the only women's college in the Lehigh Valley, Cedar Crest College is committed to reaching out to women in need. Through Healthy for You, Healthy for Two, local pregnant and parenting teens will learn the tools they need to improve their health, self-esteem and the lives of their children.

"Pre- and post-tests will be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the program," says Ziegler. "An increase of physical activity as well an increase of healthy food intake is the ultimate goal. We are trying to teach these women how they can make a positive change in their lifestyle habits."

For more information, please contact the College Relations Office at 610-740-3790.

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Abigail Fota
College Relations Associate - Media


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