Healthy Communities Childhood Obesity Initiatives
Healthy for Life
Children with dangerously high blood pressure. Kids unable to run more than a few feet. Childhood depression. These are some of the effects of the obesity epidemic among American children. In fact, one out of three kids is now considered overweight or obese.
Pediatricians are seeing an alarming rise in Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and "non-alcoholic" fatty liver disease - conditions once considered afflictions of the middle-aged and elderly. Obesity in children puts every major organ at risk and in ways that researchers are only beginning to understand, is far more destructive than packing on extra pounds later in life.
To help reverse the trend, St. Jude Medical Center is sponsoring a series of initiatives designed to combat childhood obesity: one of the most effective is the Healthy For Life school campaign. This comprehensive outreach includes exercise lessons, new sports equipment, weight training, kickboxing classes and interactive nutrition education. Body mass and other health indicators are measured and tracked, and a physician and dietician regularly visit to help educate kids and their families.
"You had kids that begin the year hypertensive because of their weight," explains Barry Ross, Vice President, Healthy Communities, St. Jude Medical Center. "By year's end, their blood pressure was normal and they were participating in activities they had previously only been able to watch."
And no one enjoyed seeing the difference more than the kids themselves. "At first, I could only walk around the track because running was too hard," explains 11-year-old Mario. "Now I can run twice around the track and do it faster than some of my friends."
Today, through a partnership between St. Jude, its sister hospitals and the St. Joseph Health, the Healthy for Life program has grown to include over 50 schools in low-income neighborhoods throughout Orange County.
Vida Sana Program
Obesity is one of the most significant health issues in America today - particularly for Hispanic families and children. Vida Sana (Healthy Life) Program was created by St. Jude Medical Center to help families avoid the medical issues caused by obesity and begin making healthy choices. Vida Sana offers nutrition education and individualized support for Spanish-speaking students and parents at Richman School as well as families at the St. Jude Neighborhood Health Center. A bilingual pediatric nurse practitioner helps families make permanent changes to achieve a healthier lifestyle. The program includes: introducing families to fruits and vegetables available at a local farmers market; learning how to read labels and make smart choices at the grocery store; and connecting families to exercise options and other community resources. For more information, please call (714) 992-3000, ext. 3862.
Fullerton Healthy Neighborhood Initiative
The Fullerton Healthy Neighborhood Initiative, in which St. Jude Medical Center is a lead partner, is working with low-income neighborhoods to create policy changes to improve children's health and reduce obesity. A primary focus for the Neighborhood Initiative is establishing safe areas for children to exercise and recent successes include:
- creating a new playground in an underserved area
- the addition of a neighborhood basketball court
- arranging for an elementary school campus to remain open after school, providing a safe place for children to run and play
The Fullerton Healthy Neighborhood Initiative is also working with local schools to improve the nutritional value of lunch and snack options, as well as participating in a citywide effort aimed at gang prevention - so that someday every neighborhood can be a safe area for children to play and exercise.
This collaboration has been so successful, that St. Jude has expanded this initiative, to improve children's health and reduce obesity, to the cities of La Habra and Buena Park.
For more information about the Fullerton Healthy Neighborhood Initiative, please call (714) 992-3000, ext. 3862.
Richman Childhood Obesity Initiative
St. Jude will continue to address the staggering increase in childhood obesity by taking our successful programs and introducing them to new neighborhoods. A new program aimed to significantly reduce the rate of childhood obesity will be launched in FY11 to the low-income Richman neighborhood in Fullerton.