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Sunrider Supports Exercise-as-Medicine Initiative for Children
A celebratory event, sponsored by the UC Irvine Pediatric Exercise and Genomics Research Center (PERC), was held to kick off an initiative aimed at training primary care professionals to prescribe exercise to children and to track health improvements related to their physical activity—both in the short-term and over a lifetime. The event was held last May in Irvine, California, at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

The motivational speaker and founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation described to the assembled physicians and scientists how she had learned to manage severe asthma while competing on the world stage, as well as the influence asthma and exercise have on her life today: "It’s not about winning gold medals; it’s about winning in life," Joyner-Kersee told the assembled physicians and scientists. "That’s what I’m faced with on a daily basis."

PERC's exercise-as-medicine initiative is intended to reshape how the next generation of children’s health professionals prescribes and then monitors physical activity beginning in early childhood. The program’s development is supported by a $1.75-million gift from Sunrider International, which was inspired by the company's vice president of business development, Dr. Reuben K. Chen, a UC Irvine School of Medicine alumnus.

“One of the most important things about this program is that it’s for professionals, including our physicians, our teachers, coaches, and PE teachers,” Dr. Chen said. “The research PERC is doing is going to be vital to understanding how to best keep our kids healthy and to use exercise as an actual medicine in the longevity of our children, so they grow up healthy and strong.”

Pediatrician Dan Cooper, MD, associate vice chancellor for Clinical and Translational Science for UC Irvine's College of Health Sciences and founder of PERC, recognized Chen, his family, and Sunrider at the gathering for what their gift is making possible.

"It is a gift of health to countless numbers of children here in our region and throughout the world," said Cooper. "It is that kind of proverbial gift that echoes and reverberates for years to come because it will enable coming generations of child health care professionals to set new standards in how we harness the biological benefit of exercise to improve the lives of children, all children—those who are healthy and those who suffer from chronic disease or disability."

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