Community Programs

Health for Life

Health for Life is a comprehensive weight management program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for overweight pre-adolescents and adolescents. It was begun in 2006 in response to the nationwide obesity crisis.

The participants in Health for Life are referred by the physicians in the pediatric clinic practices of NYP/Weill Cornell. The patients in our program come from all five boroughs of New York City. The program is for patients in our practice mainly, but we will accept patients from outside our practice if participant slots are available.


Our mission is to provide a safe and supportive environment for 4-18 year-olds and their families who are interested in improved health through healthier diets and increased physical activity.

Goals and Objectives


  1. Education of 4-18 year olds and their families in healthy lifestyle behaviors, including both diet and physical activity.
  2. Behavioral changes of participants that result in improved nutrition and increased physical activity.
  3. Incorporation of physical activity into lifestyle and daily routine.
  4. Identification and management of weight-related co-conditions.
  5. Continued program participation at specific visit intervals over the course of one year.
  6. Maintenance of exercise goals and weight goals beyond completion of the program.


  1. Development of skills in participant and parent that result in the preparation of healthy meals at home.
  2. Development of skills in participant and parent that result in healthy choices when eating out of the home.
  3. Development of individualized exercise program along with walking/running daily, with the ultimate goal of 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day on most days.
  4. Intake of 5 fruits/vegetables a day, increased intake of dietary fiber, decreased intake of fat and sugared beverages.
  5. Decrease of sedentary behaviors, including watching of television/videos/DVD's, and the use of passive video and computer games.
  6. Improvement of sleep habits, including evaluation for sleep problems, time of bedtime and duration of sleep.
  7. Improvement of co-conditions associated with overweight and obesity
  8. Maintenance of behavior changes for at least 1 year after the completion of 1 year program.
  9. Improvement in quality of life.

Criteria for acceptance:health_for_life_boy

  • BMI over the 85th percentile for age and gender
  • Age 4-18 years old
  • Willingness to commit to the program by participant and a parent or guardian

The team consists of:

  • A general pediatrician who is the medical director of the general pediatric clinic
  • An adolescent specialist
  • A registered dietitian and dietetic interns
  • A social worker
  • A physical therapist and an exercise trainer
  • Physicians including pediatric residents
  • A team of student mentors made up of college and Weill Cornell Medical College students

The Program

Participants are seen for a medical/nutrition/psychosocial intake visit and for a physical fitness assessment. Some participants, including those less than 8 years old will continue with office visits only, and some will begin the core workshop series, which runs for 2 hours weekly for 10 weeks. The interactive, fun workshop series teaches the nutrition, behavioral, and physical activity learning objectives of the program.health_for_life_group

The nutrition/behavior workshops, run by a staff registered dietitian and a staff social worker, engage the children in discussions of healthy foods, barriers to healthier lifestyles, and the preparation of a healthy snack. Because it is well known that life style changes for children require family participation and support, parents participate in concurrent nutrition workshops as well.

During the physical activity workshops, physical therapists work on improving participants' fitness in three modalities: strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility. They are also given pedometers, and their steps tracked weekly, with incentives given for goal attainment.

At the conclusion of the ten workshops, participants are presented with a certificate of completion at a graduation ceremony attended by their family members. They are then followed up every 3 months for one year to boost program effect and assess adherence to program guidelines.

In Conclusion

  • The Health for Life program has worked to empower program participants to make healthier lifestyle choices.
  • The program has been presented at multiple conferences and national meetings.
  • We are currently expanding Health for Life to community sites both in person and via telehealth broadcasting in conjunction with the Weill Cornell CTSC.

Robyn Turetsky, MS, RDN, CDN

Pediatric Community Outreach Coordinator