Toward a Healthier Future for Our Kids


Like many teens, Kameron Horton of Durham loves to play basketball. But for Kameron, basketball has been more than just a game; it has helped him through serious life challenges.

Kameron lost his father a year and a half ago. At the same time, Kameron, at just 14, was facing concerning health issues, including high glucose, blood pressure, and BMI.

Kameron and his mother, Teresia Parker, were referred to Duke Children’s Healthy Lifestyles program by their primary care doctor. The program’s partnership with Durham Parks and Recreation created Bull City Fit, which aims to reduce obesity and improve health among vulnerable populations through diet and exercise.

Basketball became not only Kameron’s go-to workout but a way to heal.

KameronThrough the program, Kameron bonded with older male mentors. “Kam needed to be around other males – good, positive role models,” says his mother. “Being out there and being able to interact and play basketball with those guys was important.” An opportunity to attend a Duke women’s basketball game and shoot during halftime was huge for her son, who is a student at Southern High School in Durham.

The impact on his physical health has been positive as well. “His weight has come down and his BMI is great,” Parker says.

Gabriela Maradiaga Panayotti, MD, is the new director of the Healthy Lifestyles program. Her role presents a unique opportunity to effect change in Durham’s multicultural landscape. Born in Honduras and raised in Central America, she is passionate about working with Hispanic communities. “It allows me to do the medical part I like, but work in the context of cultural familiarity that I really enjoy.”

Maradiaga hopes to circumnavigate challenges to care: social and language barriers, access to safe places to exercise, and easy access to healthy foods.

In late 2016, The Duke Endowment awarded a $749,000 grant to Duke Health to support the replication of Bull City Fit among vulnerable populations outside the Durham area.

“It was great to feel the validation of The Duke Endowment grant,” says Maradiaga. “It means people are really listening and reinvigorating us to keep branching out to serve children in surrounding communities. Now, we have the resources to make it happen.” The foundation of the program was built over the course of 10 years, in large part by Duke Children’s Sarah Armstrong, MD.

Parker says the program provided positive health outcomes for both Kameron and herself.

August 23, 2018

By Ashley Strahm

“Both Kameron and I can exercise and be active together. I highly recommend it.”