Editorial: Childhood-obesity focus can help change lives
Childhood obesity in the United States has tripled in the past 30 years, and much of the blame for that alarming trend has been placed on children consuming more unhealthy foods and getting too little exercise.
On the one hand, families were eating high-calorie foods at restaurants and packaged foods more often. And with television and video games becoming the dominant way that many kids were entertained, physical activity had gone by the wayside for many children.
However, a new initiative announced this week in Huntington is trying to combat those unhealthy factors, in part by employing the types of devices that children have come to love — electronic ga mes .
The new program is called Kids in Motion and is a collaboration of the Huntington YMCA, Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Marshall’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and Cabell County Schools. Also playing roles are the United Way of the River Cities with grant support, Dutch Miller Chevrolet, which donated a van for taking mobile equipment to the schools, and Food Fair, which will give grocery store tours, coupons and gift cards to the families involved to get them focused on healthy foods.
The initiative will blend state-of-the-art electronic games that promote fitness, plus a nutrition program for children and families and a comprehensive plan for children to help them incorporate healthy foods and wellness activities into their daily lives. It primarily will be carried out at the Phil Cline Family YMCA at 917 9th St., and begin with a six-week Kid Fit program starting in November, and continue with a more intensive 12-week Kid Fit program in January.
The program is aimed at children ages 5 to 14 who are overweight or obese. Parents can sign up their children. But physical education teachers and school nurses in Cabell County Schools will be on the lookout for kids who might benefit, and local physicians can make referrals, too. The program involves fees for participation, but scholarships will be offered for children whose families can’t afford the fees.
The exercise focus of the program will be on $100,000 worth of equipment, including iDance, T-wall, in which players touch circles as they light up in various sequences, a cycling game with a video screen, a jumping game, a boxing game, a climbing game and others. Organizers say youngsters who have used the equipment in the Y’s after-school program love it, and the various games leave kids winded after they’ve used them. Most of the games are focused on cardiovascular health.
Over the next 10 years, $1.2 million will be invested in the program, organizers say. But the size of the investment is worth it, particularly in this region, where adult and child obesity rates are among the nation’s highest.
A recent report by the Trust for America’s Health estimated that 18.5 percent of children ages 10 to 17 in West Virginia are obese. Children who fall into that category run a greater risk for developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any effort to reduce the number of children who are vulnerable to that range of risks is welcome, and this is area is fortunate that the partners in Kids in Motion have stepped up.
Their collaboration is just the latest effort in the community to tackle obesity. By aiming squarely at children and their parents, this initiative hopes to develop a healthier generation of West Virginians in the future.
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