- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 9, 2001

Never take a bone for granted. These 206 multifunctional body parts are under an incredible amount of stress to keep the human body from looking like a blob.

Unfortunately, many women who religiously take care of their skin and nails forget that bones need equal attention to stay at optimum strength. The Institute of Medicine estimates that only 10 percent of girls ages 9 to 13 are getting the recommended intake of calcium, and according to a National Youth Risk Behavior Study, nearly half of high school girls do not meet the goal of getting vigorous physical activity at least three times a week.

With those statistics in mind, a group of government agencies has created a colorful Web site as part of the National Bone Health Campaign (NBHC), hoping to catch the eyes and brains of the surfing female demographic.

Powerful Bones. Powerful Girls.

Site address: www.cdc.gov/powerfulbones

Creator

NBHC is a partnership of the Office on Women's Health within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Creator quotable

"We created this site to educate and encourage girls to establish lifelong healthy habits that help build and maintain strong bones, especially increased calcium consumption and weight-bearing physical activity," says Dr. Saralyn Mark, senior medical adviser for the Office on Women's Health. "This site strives to achieve that goal in a fun way that empowers girls to be strong, both inside and out."

Word from the Webwise

Hoping to appeal to the Betty Spaghetty/Powerpuff Girls crowd, the site uses a cartoon character, Carla, to promote optimal bone health in girls ages 9 to 12. This brown-haired gal with large blue eyes and bell bottoms introduces multiple pages of exploration behind pastel backdrops loaded with information. Of these, visitors should first focus on the sections "Bone Up: Info on Bones and Health" and "Staying Strong."

"Bone Up," introduces girls to their skeletal system while explaining how to strengthen bones. Words such as collagen, calcium crystals and weight-bearing activities are explained and Carla offers her top five reasons to have powerful bones.

"Staying Strong" reinforces some of the "Bone Up" concepts while concentrating on introducing more calcium into the diet and exercising options.

It also features a link to Carla's first poem, titled "Ode to Powerful Bones," and a list of foods with the amount of calcium they contain. Nice illustrative nuggets such as Carla from birth to age 20 or her winking at the visitor can be found through both sections.

Other extras on the site are a 12-question quiz that concludes with successful contestants winning a trophy, a dictionary covering everything from the calcium-rich bok choy to peak bone mass and 19 links to recommended Web sites.

Ease of use

Considering the site is only 4 months old, it succeeds with minimal content and activities by never feeling preachy or clinical.

Powerful Bones. Powerful Girls uses simple technology and is sized to fit on any monitor screen. Visitors can use older browser 3.0 versions, but the Flash plug-in is needed to play the games. Each page also has a printer-friendly equivalent to hang on the refrigerator for a gentle reminder of lessons learned.

Don't miss

Although I enjoyed the timed animated game "Crazy Calcium Caper," in which visitors help Carla choose 10 foods to reach her daily allowance of calcium, the doctor in me appreciated the pop-up tour of the human skeletal structure.

Found under the "Bone Up: Hard Facts" area, this Flash-fueled adventure shows simple definitions and importance of 18 bones. For example, the carpals are found in the wrist and allow computers users to move their mouse.

Family activity

Exercise and a diet rich in calcium are the keys to strong bones, and the site offers 32 snack ideas, including making smoothies or a broccoli-filled baked potato along with 10 weight-bearing fitness ideas to keep girls in tip-top shape.

Cybersitter synopsis

Parents should be aware of a link section that will take children outside of the site. Children may look through the site quickly, but in upcoming months they should expect to see more games, monthly polls on their favorite bone-healthy activities and foods, new poetry by Carla and a printable yearly calendar.

Overall grade: A

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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