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Bring Up Baby
Healthier and happier moms and babies is the goal of an innovative new yoga class that started last month at Congregation Gates of Prayer Louise Hayem Nursery School (4000 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie, 885-4339).

Certified yoga instructor Janice Oppenheim created the exercise program, which is available to the public, in which mothers go through the steps of yoga with their young child in order to establish good health habits at a young age and provide mom's with beneficial exercises as well as strengthening bonds between the mothers and their children.

"It helps children with coordination and flexibility and it's a bonding experience with the mother," Oppenheim says. "Yoga probably is the oldest of all exercises. It's stretching and strengthening and relaxing. It also teaches posture. If your posture is good, your organs all work better. The veins have room to pump blood, the lungs have room to work, everything just works better."

The exercises in the program are specifically geared to children from birth to 2 years old. Oppenheim says she first teaches mothers the proper stretches for their children as well as themselves. The class maintains a fun, playtime atmosphere in which children learn to enjoy physical activity.

"Studies show that children need some physical activity every day," says Mary Ann Hoffman, director of the nursery school. In fact, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recently released guidelines outlining needs for daily physical activity in infants and young children to avoid an alarming trend toward childhood obesity and the serious diseases it can promote later in life.

"I was looking for something for the younger children and moms to do together," Hoffman says. "It was kind of serendipity because I was taking yoga from (Oppenheim) myself, and she had just such a program."

The 30-minute mother-baby yoga class meets at 10:30 a.m. every Friday at Congregation Gates of Prayer auditorium and is part of the temple's weekly Babies and Bagels program. The yoga class costs $20 per month and includes bagels and coffee. For more information, call Hoffman at 885-4339.

Rehab Options LLC (3308 Tulane Ave., 821-1187) recently opened a mental health rehabilitation center to provide treatment and services to adults with chronic mental illness and young people with emotional and behavioral problems.

Monica Melancon, director of the New Orleans outreach program, says Rehab Options seeks to normalize the lives of patients by reducing the disability that often accompanies mental illness as well as helping them to optimize their ability to function normally. By giving patients tools to help them cope with their illnesses, lessen the occurrences that lead to inpatient psychiatric treatment and overall bolster their ability to live independently.

The new program offers clinical and medical management of the patient as well as individualized treatment plans, individual and group counseling, family intervention, behavior development, training in psychosocial skills and 24-hour emergency services.

Rehab Options LLC is owned by Calais Health LLC, a Baton Rouge-based provider of occupational and behavioral health services, and Briarwood LLC.

The heart-wrenching movie John Q has raised awareness of the need for donations of vital organs for transplantation, but sometimes would-be donors forget the importance of what's right before their eyes -- their corneas.

Southern Eye Bank Inc. (4440 Magnolia St., Suite 211), a 55-year-old nonprofit organization, is taking advantage of the fact that March is Eye Donor Awareness Month to let people know that donated corneal tissue can help save or restore another person's sight. The eye bank is dedicated to collecting and distributing corneal tissue for transplant surgeries in Louisiana. It also surgically removes and evaluates the tissue before recommending it for transplant. Call 891-3937 for information about becoming a designated donor.

There have been times when carrying extra weight on the body was a sign of wealth and stature. Now, however, we recognize the multitude of health problems that can be exacerbated or caused by being overfat, and in Louisiana alone statistics show that one in three school-aged youngsters is obese.

To help parents assess their children's physical health and learn ways to help them maintain a healthy weight, the University of New Orleans is sponsoring a conference on obesity from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 12 at the University Center (room 211) at UNO's lakefront campus. The public is invited to attend this free conference, but advanced registration is recommended and seating will be billed on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 280-7216 for advance registration or more information.

Presentations get underway at 9:35 a.m. with a discussion of childhood obesity by Melinda Sothern, director of the Childhood Obesity Laboratory and a research professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.

That program will be followed at 10:35 a.m. by "Adult Obesity: Research, Treatment, Health Provider Training," presented by Phillip Brantley, director of the education program and chief of primary care at the Pennington Center. Sothern, Brantley and other professionals will wrap up the conference with a panel discussion at 11:15 a.m. that gives patients and their care providers information about avoiding and overcoming obesity as well as the financial and medical consequences of being overfat. Research shows obesity is linked with a host of serious chronic diseases, including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, asthma and other maladies.

The conference is sponsored by the Environmental Health Council of Louisiana and the Louisiana Council on Obesity Prevention and Management in cooperation with dozens of government, medical, educational and civic groups.

Call 280-7216 or 225-275-7231 for more information.

Collectors of the tiny or those who simply delight in viewing miniatures will have a big selection of miniatures, dollhouses and supplies for collecting at the 17th Annual Gulf South Miniature and Dollhouse Event in Metairie this month.

The show is open from noon to 5 p.m. March 16 and noon to 4 p.m. March 17 at the Landmark Hotel (2601 Severn Ave., Metairie) and also includes a sale. Admission is $5, and proceeds benefit the National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana. Call 861-4500 for more information.

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