By: Carole Townsend | Gwinnett Citizen
Published: 2017-06-13 14:40
Date Modified: 2017-07-14 14:40
Michelle Lombardo and Karen McNamara and Puppets

Every now and then, you run across somebody who loves what they do for a living. They’re passionate about it, and that passion is evident in their speech, their expressions and even in their workplace.

Dr. Michelle A. Lombardo and Karen McNamara are two such people. Friends for about 24 years and business partners for 23 of those years, these two women love their business.

What do they do? They fight childhood obesity, and they’re winning. In fact, their company – The OrganWise Guys – is the number one obesity prevention program in the country. In a nation in which children are being diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes and obesity at an alarming rate, Lombardo and McNamara seem to be just what the doctor ordered.

OrganWise Guys“We met twenty-four years ago. I was one of (Michelle’s) patients,” said McNamara of Lombardo, who is a chiropractor. “She did a regular lecture to educate her patients on the tenets of good health in a way that could easily be incorporated into one’s day. I went almost every week because I loved it! We just clicked. Soon after that, we decided to go into business together.”

McNamara laughs as she remembers the early days of the pair’s ventures. “We tried catering, but that was an awful lot of work and not our area of expertise!” Even so, the focus of their business had to be nutrition and health; that was obvious to both of them. They understood that the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. In fact, the top 10 leading causes of death in this country also include diabetes, stroke and cancer. What do all of those maladies have in common? They often go hand-in-hand with obesity and are affected by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. Lombardo and McNamara knew that, if they could improve our understanding of nutrition and physical activity and how it affects our bodies – our organs – then they had a chance to arrest the steadily climbing rate of obesity among children.

“Think about it,” said Lombardo. “If you want to change something, start with the children. Parents will do things for their children that they won’t do for themselves.” That is true of smoking, for example. How may parents quit smoking because their children begged them to stop? Children have been educated about the negative effects of smoking and as a result, they wanted their parents to stop the deadly habit. Those same children are now called “millennials,” and they champion a campaign called, simply, TRUTH, which educates smokers and non-smokers alike about the social and physical truths of smoking.

The same is true of nutrition. “The food that children eat, other than what they get at school, is controlled by their families. So many children are fed fast food and rarely get a meal cooked at home, because that’s how their parents eat,” Lombardo said. Obesity and heart disease in young children is one result of that phenomenon. “There are very young children who are getting bariatric surgery as a result,” said McNamara. “There are kids in elementary school with high blood pressure. We never heard that before, but it’s all too common now.”

Enter The OrganWise Guys, a family of puppets (characters) who each represent some of the internal organs. There’s Hardy Heart, Sir Rebrum (the brain), Pepto (the stomach), Peri Stolic (the intestine), and more. Each organ has its own personality, needs and lessons to teach. The same people who designed the Jim Henson’s Muppets designed some of The OrganWise Guys puppets. The characters sing, go on adventures, have hopes and dreams all their own. But the underlying and constant message to children is this: “We love who we live in, so please take care of us!” Children are taught through various OrganWise programs to treat their own organs like pets. They are taught to feed and exercise them properly and make sure they get enough water. In other words, children are taught that it is their responsibility to treat their organs well, thereby treating their bodies well.

The OrganWise Guys programs are so successful that the Georgia Department of Education’s School Nutrition Division has incorporated the Food of the Month cafeteria program into all of its schools. Kroger grocery stores funded OrganWise for the first 10 years, because the precepts and lessons are sound. Lombardo and McNamara travel the country, speaking at health summits and conferences, as they are fast becoming the “go-to” team for positive, measurable results, such as lower Body Mass Indexes (BMI) among children using the The OrganWise Guys programs.

Large corporations are also taking notice of the charming OrganWise Guys characters that live inside our bodies. Healthcare costs are often second only to actual payroll costs in a company, and the effects are staggering. By using The OrganWise Guys tools and materials in their employees’ benefits packages, corporations can encourage adults and educate childrens, to eat real, whole foods rather than processed “pretend” food, get regular exercise, and incorporate other healthful habits into their life … little by little.

“Millenials are going to be the ones who really drive this. Nutrition matters to them. They educate themselves, and they demand better, safer ingredients in their food. They will most definitely be sure to feed their own children healthy foods, and that’s when I think we’ll really see things turn around in this country,” Lombardo said. 

Join the FREE online Kids Club, a useful tool for parents, kids and teachers, at www.organwise.com/kids. Parents, grandparents and other family members can subscribe to the Healthy Kid Box by visiting www.healthybox.com. For $24.95/month, children receive their own doll and all of The OrganWise Guys plush characters, plus teaching tools and exercises that teach everything from proper nutrition, to exercise encouragement, to gardening.