Partnership Teaches Kids Importance of Nutrition and Exercise

In the interest of promoting community health and youth hockey, Barnabas Health is partnering with the New Jersey Devils organization. They’re renaming the Devil’s practice facility the Barnabas Health Hockey House and throwing open the doors to some 300 amateur hockey teams in the state. Barnabas Health President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky and Devils President Hugh Weber spoke with NJTV News Anchor Mary Alice Williams.

Williams: Barnabas has always been your team’s go-to medical health center. How does this expand the dual franchise?

Weber: They’ve always been the world class health provider for our staff, but we looked at the work they’re doing in the community and their coverage in the state and we shared this value of combining the neighborhood’s families and communities into this Jersey-centric model that we’d love to spread even to a bigger platform and it became the perfect partner for us to spread this message.

Weber: What kind of health related strategies do you have that connect to hockey and the kids?

Ostrowsky: In our case we believe in integrating with our communities, so the demographic of those young people that play hockey is a particular interest of ours to make sure they’re healthy when they play, make sure they understand life decisions and nutrition, make sure that they understand that activity can be good but can be dangerous so we want to make sure that they’re doing it correctly. Their parents are another demographic who we think need to be supported in their lifestyle changes and selections. So, we’re going to integrate with these 300, as you point out, 300 youth hockey players. All the venues that the Devils support will be offering health care advice. Our mission has changed. It’s no longer about simply waiting for you to get sick. We want to prevent you from getting sick. We want to you to avert these illnesses and that’s what we’re going to be able to do through the youth hockey program.

Williams: What is a fueling, healthy athletes and sports nutrition curriculum? What is that?

Weber: So it’s a combination of things. You know, you look at athletes, obviously professional athletes, they care about their nutrition and health because it’s their livelihood, right? But you see kids who are study after study shows that when they’re engaged in sport they are better academically, they take better care of their nutrition so it gives, sport has become a platform for us to make it an incentive to do well in school. These programs require them to keep grade point averages and it also requires them to take care of themselves so exposure to an education that they wouldn’t normally get except through their coaches and players and parents.

Williams: Can you expand this to inner city kids in Newark?

Ostrowsky: Well we have a big footprint in Newark — Barnabas Health and Beth Israel Medical Center. We’re committed to the city. We’re training people for jobs in health care so that Newark and urban health care and urban communities are a big focus of this program. So we are going to extend and enhance all of these programs for the youth of the urban areas. You know, one of the things that you said that I think is critically important is that you try to make this fun. Teaching people how to eat better, teaching people how to exercise is not fun. If you can combine it with an activity that is fun, that gains their interest, you’re ahead of the game so hockey New Jersey which is centered in Newark and throughout the state is another great example that will come out of this partnership for this organization.