By Katie Brown
Children are extremely impressionable. During childhood, kids are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear, especially when the information comes from someone they look up to as a role model.
Whether this role model is a sibling, a parent or a fictional TV or book character, children begin to form opinions and attitudes based on that person’s decisions, both good and bad. While some of the things a child picks up can be undesirable, childhood is a monumental time for the development of positive lifelong habits, like leading a healthy lifestyle or developing a good moral compass. So to help spread the chiropractic and vitalistic message, children-focused programs, like The Chiro-Squad, The OrganWise Guys and Straighten Up, are being implemented in chiropractic practices, schools and homes. With admirable characters, easy-to-follow regimens and fun, constructive activities, these programs aim to get kids involved with Chiropractic from an early age, with the hope of developing a lifelong commitment to Chiropractic and overall health.
In 1997, Vic Naumov, D.C., a student at New York Chiropractic College, created The Chiro-Squad, a team of five superheroes who connect kids to Chiropractic. Naumov opened his own family practice in September 2000, where he decided to implement his Chiro-Squad Superheroes Kids’ Club Program. Soon, Naumov’s practice flourished, thanks in part to his program. “I created these superheroes as a tool to connect kids with the chiropractic message. They are a delivery system,” Naumov says. “I grew up as a fan of superheroes, and it resonated with me. I used these superheroes to build my practice from scratch, and I wanted something to make me different from other chiropractors.”
Named for the regions of the spine, The Chiro-Squad is made up of Cervico, Thoracico, Thoracica, Lumbardo and Sacra. As part of this four-step program, kids trade and collect Chiro-Squad cards, which help educate children ages 5–12 about the benefits of chiropractic care and regular spinal check-ups. “These characters teach kids that if they want to be their best, they have to get their spine checked,” Naumov says. “And why do you want to get your spine checked? To have your body work better.”
Upon the initial visit and assessment, children receive their own Chiro-Squad Kids Club Membership Card. As the program evolves and they attend follow-up visits, kids receive stickers, temporary tattoos or additional cards. “I [explain] one card each time and give [the kids] the card when they leave because kids learn through seeing, touching and feeling,” says Naumov.
Today, The Chiro-Squad Internal Kids’ Marketing System is available for purchase so that its message will spread through chiropractic clinics worldwide. Soon, The Chiro-Squad will be coming out with its own adjusting table, and Naumov is also looking into comic books and smartphone apps to further communicate the chiropractic philosophy. “For us chiropractors, our message is very simple, but our delivery can be weak,” says Naumov. “The kids don’t always want to listen to us as adults, but they want to listen to Lumbardo or Cervico.”
The OrganWise Guys
To help kids learn about good nutrition and making healthy lifestyle choices, Michelle Lombardo, D.C., and Karen McNamara founded The OrganWise Guys Comprehensive School Program, a classroom curriculum that focuses on a group of characters that teaches children about important, lifelong health decisions, like prevention-oriented eating and physical activity choices. While Lombardo and McNamara originally set out to address adult health, Lombardo’s patients began expressing concern for the overall health of their own children.
“We started to teach parents about diseases like strokes and cardiovascular disease, and parents started asking how they could teach their kids,” McNamara says. “So, we came up with The OrganWise Guys to help [kids] better understand their role in staying healthy. Kids are now going home and teaching their parents.”
The program’s Core Kit has grade- and age-specific materials for Pre-K through fifth grade and uses multi-media to integrate nutrition and health concepts into core subjects, like math and language arts. Also part of the program is The Foods of the Month Club, a school-wide campaign that publishes newsletters about nutrient-rich food, and WISERCISE!, an exercise program that incorporates academics and physical activity through 10-minute, desk-side sessions.
According to The OrganWise Guys Comprehensive School Program/The Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren Study, the program has been noted as having a significant positive impact on the overall health of children. “This is the only evidence-based child obesity program,” says McNamara. “The result [of the study] was statistically significant improvement in weight, blood pressure measures, waist circumference and academic performance.” The study, which took place in 53 elementary schools in Florida, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina and West Virginia, tested the efficiency of the everyday implementation of a holistic nutrition and healthy lifestyle program.
As The OrganWise Guys continues to expand—with more than 6,000 programs in schools, clinics, early childhood centers, afterschool programs, summer camps and other child care facilities—McNamara notes that the program’s success is due to its ability to engage kids in the health process. Today, the program includes more than 50 books, 72 vignettes, a free app and easily accessible information and materials for teachers and parents on the website. Kids can even explore The OrganWise Guys website to read blogs from their favorite characters—like Luigi Liver, Kid Kidney, Sir Rebrum and Hardy Heart.
An innovative health initiative, Straighten Up was designed by members of the chiropractic profession to help people improve their quality of life through activity and a dedication to their spinal health. “The goal is to empower people to take care of their spinal and neurological health every day,” says Ron Kirk, D.C., coordinator for Straighten Up and instructor in Life University’s Chiropractic Sciences division. “Just as we do something daily for our teeth, we should also do something for our spine.”
In 2004, the Straighten Up program was tested during a five-week period of daily program-specific exercises, showing significant and positive outcomes. Eighty-three percent of participants experienced improved posture, and 78 percent noticed more strength in their core muscles—further proving the need for daily exercise targeted at addressing spinal health.
While these initial participants ranged from college-age students to those in their 80s, children have since responded positively to the program. “It’s really easy, and kids love it,” says Kirk. The Straighten Up American Health Child Version lasts three minutes and is divided into three sessions—“The Star” for warming up, “Flying Friends” for posture and “Core Balance” to finish. Along the way, the characters Vibes and Veggie explain how to do each exercise through comprehensive PowerPoint presentations.
Now an international initiative, the Straighten Up program is translated into 15 languages, making it a global health program for people of all ages. “There are people all over the place using this,” Kirk says. “In Hong Kong, there are 100 primary schools where kids are doing Straighten Up exercises.”
Recently, Life University students helped spread the message of spinal health and the Straighten Up program at Frey Fit Fest, a community health festival at Frey Elementary School in Acworth, Ga. As part of the festival, kids received spinal screenings and learned Straighten Up exercises from LIFE students, while also enjoying other activities like rock climbing walls and obstacle courses. “What we’re trying to do with [Straighten Up] is to encourage kids to get active,” says Kirk. “It’s posture, yes. It’s spine, yes. But it’s also activity. The way we live is killing us.”
Above all, Straighten Up aims to provide its users—whether they’re 8 or 80—with better overall health through a lifestyle committed to Chiropractic and consistent exercise. “We are trying to give people the tools so that they will be empowered,” says Kirk. “Really, our vision is to have everyone be more active, more healthy and live better lives.”