SYRACUSE -- Colby Larsen and Payson Payne learned in the fourth grade about the importance of eating healthfully and staying active.
Both boys, who attend Syracuse Arts Academy, participated in the Intermountain Healthcare "LiVe" program, which was provided free to select schools along the Wasatch Front during the 2011-12 school year.
Chris Dallin, spokesman for McKay-
Dee Hospital, which is part of Intermountain Healthcare, said medical officials wanted to bring a program into the schools to reduce childhood obesity.
"We focus on prevention, detection and treatment of chronic diseases associated with weight and unhealthy behaviors," Dallin said.
"I learned to eat better foods," said Payson, who is entering the fifth grade this fall. "I like to eat lots of apples and fruits and vegetables now."
His classmate, Colby, said he learned if he has a choice he should pick inline skating or playing basketball over watching TV and playing video games.
"I also learned to eat a healthier breakfast," Colby said.
He always ate breakfast, but now he tries to add something else, like fruit, to his cereal.
Both boys said they drink a lot less soda pop, a lot more water and spend more time outside doing activities instead of sitting in the house in front of a TV screen.
Judy Nixon, principal at Syracuse Arts Academy for kindergarten to fourth grade, said Intermountain officials came to the school in October 2010 and presented a class to third-graders on healthful eating and lifestyle habits. They also conducted a survey among the students with parents' permission on what they ate and did the previous week.
Health officials came back in 2011 and gave each of the students, who were then fourth-graders, pedometers. They also gave teachers materials to help teach students about healthful eating habits and what students can do to keep active.
Health officials then followed up with a questionnaire in March about the students' eating habits and lifestyle.
"I was thrilled with the results," Nixon said.
Based on the two surveys, 8 percent more of the students began eating three meals a day, Nixon said. There was also an increase in the number of students sitting down and eating with their families, as well as an increase in their activities, including walking.
Nixon and medical personnel said students who eat regularly at the table with their families are not only healthier overall, but also improve academically.
Nixon said she hopes that next year the "LiVe" program will also include the parents.
Dallin said officials are discussing ways to improve the program and to bring it to more schools.
"Most kids are not necessarily unhealthy at school, but at home."