CYCLE Kids and Navajo Nation: A Partnership for Better Health
The Navajo community has some of the highest rates of physical and emotional health issues in the country. Lack of exercise and unhealthy diets contribute to various physical health issues; roughly 20% of Navajo residents live with diabetes and about 31% are obese or overweight. With unemployment and poverty levels over 40%, the children in the community often face emotional issues that stem from social isolation, low self-confidence, and weak support systems.
Programs that build self-esteem and give children access to mentors can strengthen emotional wellbeing and support choices to change the health outcomes of Navajo children. The CYCLE Kids program is teaching children how to ride a bike and eat well, motivating them to do better socially and academically. The program gives them confidence, feelings of success, improved self-esteem, and provides an opportunity for a brighter future.
By teaching nutrition lessons that are fun and simple, the CYCLE Kids program shows children how to make healthier eating choices. Take-home activities in the textbooks encourage families to learn with their children and make healthier, active choices at home. In Navajo Nation, where a recent survey found that 80% of the inventory of Navajo grocery stores qualified as junk food, these lessons can provide important information for families, and help drive support for farm initiatives and efforts to stock stores with healthier food.
The CYCLE Kids program aligns with initiatives in Navajo Nation that are working towards a healthier future for everyone. Early childhood fitness and nutrition education complement efforts like those of the Community Outreach and Patient Empowerment (COPE) Project to combat chronic diseases and promote health on the reservation.
Many kids are exposed to biking for the first time through the CYCLE Kids program. They love the experience of riding a bike so much, that they begin to bike to school and join afterschool bike clubs. In Navajo Nation, more children are taking advantage of bike programs being developed in the community, including the annual Tour de Res summer bike trip, a two week biking and camping program offered to children on the reservation, as well as after school bike clubs. Enthusiasm for biking also drives demand for the Navajo YES (Youth Enrichment Program) and for increased bike trails.
The impact of the CYCLE Kids program on this one community has inspired the leaders of Navajo Nation to request the CYCLE Kids program for eight other Navajo schools.