New Year's resolutions for the family

by Hazel Halliburton

When Jan. 1 hits the calendar, resolutions are made to kick old habits and develop healthy new ones — a trend that more than 40 percent of Americans are a part of every year. Of those resolutions, losing weight and getting healthy top the charts for desired goals. While it is possible to reach health-related New Year’s goals, developing healthy habits is more successful and lasting when one has been trained at a young age to think health-centered.

That is why Unity Health has created Unity Kids, an ambassador program that allows third-grade students in local schools to serve as examples for healthy living. Each week during the school year, a different student is selected to serve as the Unity Kid Ambassador for their class. During the week, ambassadors will read a health tip card to their classmates, and near the end of the school year, the students write a one-page essay on how they can live healthy lives and internalize the healthy tips they learned throughout the school year. Health tips include topics such as stretching, practicing good posture, limiting screen time, boosting brain power with reading, drinking water and getting enough sleep.

Schools that participate in the program, which is currently available to schools in Searcy, are then eligible to receive monetary grants that they can use toward acquiring health-related items for their schools.

“The purpose of this program is to teach children at a young age about the importance of taking charge of their health,” said Anna Brumfield, Unity Health Event and Foundation Specialist. “By teaching them to eat more vegetables, drink water rather than soda and play outside instead of watching TV, we are encouraging them to grow into healthy adults. We want to educate and give students the tools to live health-centered from elementary school through adulthood.”

In Arkansas alone, more than 33.9 percent of children are considered overweight or obese, making Arkansas the 12th most obese state in the U.S. for children, according to However, with the right education and support of teachers, schools and families, Unity Health is meeting its mission to create healthier communities. Through the Unity Kids program, Unity Health is able to address health-related issues in Arkansas.

“Obesity causes health risks for not only adults, but children as well,” said Dr. Mark Gustke, Unity Health pediatrician. “Overweight and obese children are at increased risks for vascular ailments including heart disease and hypertension, metabolic disease including diabetes and musculoskeletal problems such as joint replacements and arthritis. The earlier a child has a weight issue, the greater increase that he/she will continue to have those same issues in adulthood.”

Many of the health problems people face can often be prevented with proper nutrition and exercise. Making the decision to make changes in eating and exercise habits can be a challenging process, but with the support of the entire family, it can be possible. Creating healthy habits for children and making health-centered resolutions for the family should include everyone. By teaching students about health through Unity Kids, students are then able to go home and teach and encourage their parents and siblings to live healthier lives.

Unity Health Clinical Dietician, Karen Szelinski, said one of the most important things to remember when starting new healthy habits is to remember that this is not just a phase, but a lifestyle change, and should include the entire family.

“It’s important to realize that when you begin trying to enforce healthy habits and knowledge with your children, you have to remember that they didn’t get to where they are on their own,” Szelinski said. “These unhealthy habits can usually be seen throughout the entire family. That’s why it’s so important to focus on the entire family and get everyone involved in lifestyle changes.”

Health-centered New Year’s resolutions for the entire family:

Make healthy food choices and spend meal time together!

Serve fruits and vegetables at dinner. Whether fresh, canned or frozen, vegetables and fruits are the healthier option. Eating meals as a family also encourages healthy eating habits by allowing parents to set healthy examples for their children.

Go outside!

Whether it is a game of catch or playing Frisbee, outdoor activities with the family will encourage exercise.

Limit screen time!

Spending time in front of the TV, or playing on the computer is OK for up to two hours a day, but more than that can be harmful for your health. Instead, spend family time outside or playing a board game.

Encourage positivity.

Positive attitudes are beneficial for the entire family. Not only does it help manage stress, but it creates a support system. Spend time each day laughing with your children and complimenting them.


Take time to relax and make sure your family gets enough sleep.

Newborns (0-3 months) need 14 to 17 hours a day.
Infants (4-11 months) need 12 to 15 hours a day.
Toddlers (1-2 years) need 11 to 14 hours a day.
Preschoolers (3-5 years) need 11 to 13 hours a day.
School-aged children (6-13 years) need 9 to 11 hours a day.
Teenagers (14-17) need 8 to 10 hours a day.
Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day.

A Searcy resident, Hazel Halliburton works as the marketing specialist for Unity Health. She is a graduate of Harding University and has a bachelor’s degree in public relations with a focus in marketing. She can be reached at [email protected].