HOUSTON (May 16, 2015)

Memorial Hermann Health System has joined with Project Fit America, Summer National Senior Games, General Electric and the Houston Independent School District in an effort to promote physical fitness and combat a growing and disturbing trend of childhood obesity.

A kick-off ceremony will be held Thursday at 10 a.m., at Eugene Field Elementary School, located at 703 East 17th Street. The school will be officially designated as a PFA model school. Memorial Hermann Community Benefit Corporation partnered with PFA, National Senior Games and GE to bring the program to Eugene Field Elementary - which is served by Memorial Hermann Health Centers for Schools.

School staff and students, HISD officials, representatives from Memorial Hermann, GE, National Senior Games, the Mayor's Advisory Council on Health and Environment and Junction Jack, the Houston Astros Mascot, will be on hand to participate in activities, with students demonstrating various PFA program elements.

"Physical education and fitness related activities continue to be cut and/or poorly funded, at a time when childhood obesity and related illnesses are at epidemic levels," says PFA's Executive Director, Stacey Cook. "More than 60 percent of American children get no physical activity outside the school day which is why we applaud Memorial Hermann, Summer Senior Games and General Electric for taking this leadership role to help kids in schools become more fit and healthy!"

In 2010, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center conducted a test and found that three out of every four children are either overweight or obese, confirming an unsettling trend of a growing number of American children being out-of-shape and inactive. Since 1980 childhood obesity has tripled according to the U.S. Surgeon Generals' Report. If this trend continues, this generation of American children will be the first not expected to outlive their parents due to the health problems associated with obesity.

In response to this alarming movement, PFA formed in 1990 as a nonprofit organization to donate PE equipment and programs to schools creating new opportunities for children to be active, fit and healthy, as part of their everyday school experience. Programming includes state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment that is specifically designed to address the deficit areas where children fail fitness tests.

Along with the PE equipment, PFA also provides a curriculum with fitness games and challenges geared to maximize the program results. There is also onsite teacher training and class instruction to educate students on subjects such as smoking intervention, nutrition and understanding their body.

In 22 years, PFA has donated equipment to more than 800 schools in 300 cities and 40 states, partnering mostly with hospitals to establish model school programs. Since its founding, PFA has contributed more than $10 million, with schools being selected via a local grant program in the sponsors' service areas. Schools designated as PFA model school, report increased motivation, participation and physical improvements in their students along with parents and faculty becoming more involved in choosing fitness activities over sedentary lifestyle habits.

Moreover, fitness testing results reported by PFA model schools across the country show an average increase of 44.9% in upper body strength, 14.7% in abdominal strength and 11.2% increase in cardiovascular endurance.