flag image
Read recent articles from Indy's Child magazine, right here at Indyschild.com

Conquering Childhood Obesity

Local initiatives on the growing epidemic

August 01, 2011
There's a killer stalking our children, and its name is obesity. Unfortunately, this killer strikes slowly over time. It's a problem that has become out of hand, nearly tripling in occurrence over the last 30 years, growing to epidemic proportions and affecting a third of America's population. Luckily for those in the Indianapolis area, people at all levels of government and communities are stepping up to battle childhood obesity.

In 2008, Indiana was ranked the 10th most obese state in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese. These children may be facing serious Health problems not just later in life but in their immediate future.

According to Dr. Andrew C. Riggs, director of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes of Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent, there has been a dramatic increase of children being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes over the past 15 years. In addition, children are at risk for other obesity related conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, early sexual maturation, respiratory disorders and skin infections, not to mention the psychological effects of obesity such as low self-esteem and depression.

In Indianapolis, both Mayor Greg Ballard and Gov. Mitchell Daniels are highly active in the fight against obesity. The INShape Indiana initiative (www.in.gov/inshape), created by Daniels, encourages Hoosiers to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better, moving more and avoiding tobacco.

In an effort to combat the problem on the school level, Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent has developed the Project 18 Statewide School Health and Wellness Challenge. Designed in partnership with Marsh Supermarkets and Ball State University, the program is designed to "help Kids and their families set goals, eat smarter and get active" by involving parents and educators. The project, which is named after Manning's football jersey number, provides Indiana elementary schools with an 18-week health and wellness curriculum designed to address the major risk behaviors in 3rd grade to 5th grade students. Approximately 250 registered schools within 60 Indiana counties participated in the project in 2010 and applications are now being taken to participate in this year's challenge. For more information, visit the project website at www.project18.stvincent.org or call 317-338-KIDS (5437).

Peyton Manning Children's Hospital L.I.F.E for Kids is a holistic healthy lifestyle program for children and adolescents. Integrating counseling and education from a multi-disciplinary team does not just promote weight loss, but rather healthy habits for life. Lori Walton, pediatric weight management coordinator for the program, recommends getting kids to eat healthier by making healthier versions of foods they already like. "Using reduced fat ingredients, adding diced vegetables, and minimizing oil and butter in recipes can produce healthy burgers and fries, pizza, Chinese, Mexican and Italian restaurant favorites," said Walton, who has been hard at work on the cookbook "Project 18 Menu Makeovers" due out this month. She also finds that presentation is important and recommends serving healthy foods in fun ways such as arranging bite size pieces on party platters. "Kids will choose chips and cookies over fruits and vegetables most every time," she said. "Keeping fresh fruits and vegetables already washed, cut up and ready to grab for snacking greatly increases the likelihood that they will be eaten." More information on the L.I.F.E. program is available at www.peytonmanning.stvincent.org.

Riley Hospital for Children POWER (Pediatric Overweight Education and Research) program at Indiana University Health strives to take a proactive role in the prevention and treatment of youth obesity. "POWER is well rounded and includes an on-staff psychologist, physical therapist, physician, nurse practitioner and dietician," said Amanda Garant, coordinator, Riley Hospital for Children POWER program at Indiana University Health. "We are there to offer support, education and treatment on many levels."

The POWER program not only offers tertiary-care based weight management for youth, but physician education and empowerment and community initiatives as well. Beginning August 25, hour-long POWER Up classes will take place every Thursday for 6 weeks in which children learn both nutrition and physical fitness.

In addition, Riley and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful helped 10 IPS schools plant "Riley School Gardens" last spring. The produce will go to the community, teachers, students and their families. Indiana University Health also launched "Garden on the Go," a mobile produce truck that visits inner-city neighborhoods to promote healthy eating. This fall, IU Health will also unveil an 8-acre organic urban farm that will supply fresh produce to Local food banks.

The American Heart Association (AHA) is very involved in fighting childhood obesity in Indiana and across the U.S. Last year the AHA announced an aggressive 10-year impact goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent. "To accomplish this goal, much of our work will be preventative, including with our youngest generation, helping and encouraging them to develop healthy eating, activity and other lifestyle habits that will help them avoid obesity and the many long-term health risks associated with it," said AHA communications director, Tim Harms. The AHA is fighting this battle on many fronts including encouraging kids to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day, and encouraging healthy eating habits. "93% of our kids have a poor diet, 7% have an intermediate diet and none of our children eat an ideal diet," said Harms. "This is very concerning to us and will be one of our main priorities for the foreseeable future." The AHA is also in the process of unveiling a new My Heart, My Life platform that will feature several programs to combat childhood obesity. More information is available at www.heart.org.

All levels of society need to work together to combat the growing childhood obesity problem; from government and healthcare agencies to schools and religious organizations. Families also need to do their part. Keeping healthy foods on hand and choosing activity over sitting idle are simple beginnings. Together, we can work to conquer the epidemic and keep childhood obesity at bay.

list visuals View images.
Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer and the author of the book "What's the Point?" Visit her at rebeccatodd.wordpress.com.
Protect your Child from Type 2 Diabetes

Do you have type 2 diabetes in your family? If so, your child may be at risk, too.

One in three children born in 2000 or later will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime (one in two among minorities). Obesity, including childhood obesity, is a major risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. By helping your child maintain a healthy weight, you can do a lot to reduce his or her risk for type 2.

When you're shopping at the grocery, make healthy choices by buying produce, lean meats and dairy, and choose snacks that are low in carbohydrates, sugar and salt. You can also get active with your kids: ride bikes, go roller skating, play at the pool or go for a walk together. At least 30 minutes of daily physical activity can go a long way towards preventing type 2 diabetes. One simple way to get started is by registering to walk in the Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes this fall at www.diabetes.org/indyschild.

Most of all, if you think your child is at risk for type 2 diabetes, talk with your doctor. By making healthy choices, you can help your child avoid type 2 diabetes.

For more information, visit www.diabetes.org or contact the American Diabetes Association at 317-352-9226 or indiana@diabetes.org.

Tags: In This Issue, Health, Kids, Local

Comments ()
St. Francis
Race for a Cure