Local clinic participating in program that examines childhood obesity | CraigDailyPress.com

Local clinic participating in program that examines childhood obesity

Health care professionals at Moffat Family Clinic, from left, Tracey Wall, Marilyn Fineran and Angela Calhoun are overseeing the Pediatric Obesity and Fit Family Challenge. The program is designed to study and work against childhood obesity through education about physical activity, nutrition and other elements of a healthy lifestyle.

Choosing the right food and drinks, avoiding temptation of the wrong ones and being active outside rather than glued in front of the television.

When done consistently at a young age, all of these can help prevent health problems now and later in life.

That's the lesson Moffat Family Clinic staffers want to impart on young patients.

The clinic is taking part in the Pediatric Obesity Pilot Project and Fit Family Challenge, a program designed to study and battle childhood obesity in Colorado. The program is funded by the Colorado Health Foundation and overseen by the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians.

Tracey Wall, a physician's assistant at Moffat Family Clinic, will run the program in Craig.

"I think about 12 to 15 clinics from around the state have been picked to be part of the program," Wall said. "There hasn't been a lot of good research about how to shrink childhood obesity, so the goal of the program is to find out if some different steps that they've put forth are adequate in treating or at least tackling the problem."

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A 2010 health report card compiled by the Colorado Health Foundation listed the state as the "leanest and most active" in the country. However, children 6 to 12 are among the unhealthiest age group in the state.

About 14.2 percent of children in Colorado are considered obese, which ranks 23rd in the nation.

Colorado adults rank No. 1 in the country at 19 percent of residents qualifying as obese.

The health foundation's statistics also list Colorado No. 2 for adults diagnosed with diabetes (4.2 percent) and high blood pressure (17 percent).

Still, the numbers are higher than they should be.

Wall said healthy habits begin early.

"Obese children are more likely to become obese adults," she said.

The intent behind the pilot program is to nip the problem.

The program begins next month and runs through August 2012.

Wall said she and her team began enrolling children in July.

"We're in a recruitment stage right now," she said. "We've got five kids, but we're hoping for more. If they're interested, they can come here and there's a little health survey they can fill out. If they qualify, we can enroll them. Every kid who's coming through the clinic, we're having them fill it out."

Wall said the survey, done via computer, gives an assessment of children based on their level of physical activity as well as their body type.

"Even if a kid is a healthy weight and they're watching six hours of TV a day, that's still a concern and it's healthier for them to be active even if they're not obese," she said.

To qualify for the program, children must be between 6 and 12 years old and rank at or above the 85th percentile of the body mass index chart, which measures weight compared to height or kilograms/meters-squared.

The standards are different for measuring childhood BMI compared to adults, Wall said.

For adults, a BMI of 30 indicates obesity, but measuring for children, doctors need to factor in potential growth.

"For kids, the BMI changes over time, and for adults it's the same all the time," she said. "A 6-year-old should probably be no more than 60 pounds unless they're really, really tall. The average 6-year-old boy would be between 42 inches and 49 inches."

Participants will receive weekly measurements of height, weight and blood pressure.

Wall and fellow coordinators Marilyn Fineran and Angela Calhoun will also teach children the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Lifestyle plan. The plan includes five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, two or less hours of screen time — television, computer, movies, video games — and getting at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

The zero stands for the amount of soda and sugar-sweetened sports and fruit drinks children should be consuming. All of these elements are designed to help maintain a healthy weight.

"Every week, we'll talk to them about a different goal in the model like, 'This week I'm going to eat more fruit than I did last week,'" Wall said. "Over the year, they will weekly make a goal and every month they'll come in for group classes where we do different education about nutrition and activity."

The curriculum also includes classes for children and family members focusing on cooking and reading labels in the supermarket, portion control in restaurants, self-esteem and maintaining a healthy body into a child's teen and adult years.

"We don't want these kids to be on a diet necessarily or to lose weight necessarily," Wall said. "What we want them to do is maintain their weight as they grow. That way their BMI is going to go down as they get taller."

Wall said she had spoken with local businesses about donating items like sports equipment as incentives to keep kids active.

"We'll be playing a lot of games at our meetings, and I think it'll be a pretty fun time," she said.

Wall said she wants to keep the program free for participating families. The health foundation endows a $400 incentive to each practice that starts the program.

"If the money we got from them isn't enough, we'll probably eat the rest of the costs," she said. "If people have to pay anything it will be something very small. That's another thing that we'll be talking about … how to make healthy choices that aren't expensive."

Wall said families who have signed up have been enthusiastic.

"Part of the criteria is that the kids are interested because if they're not, they're never going to stay," she said. "Most of the parents are very interested, and the kids realize that there's a problem and they want some help with it. The younger kids, I don't think they know, but with the parents on board they can get excited about it.

"Our group meetings will be really fun, we'll have games and have incentive gifts and I think it'll be something they enjoy in the end."

Wall said she does not plan to limit how many people can participate in the program. To get further grant money for similar projects, the clinic needs at least 10 children and their families participating in the program.

"On our end as providers, I think it's neat to open conversation with parents," Wall said. "There are a lot of parents who are concerned but there are some who aren't, and I'm thinking this'll bring some awareness to the town and some people who don't see it as a problem will recognize that this is a good thing."

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Pediatric Obesity Pilot Project and Fit Family Challenge:

• Moffat Family Clinic is taking part in a study run by the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians to curb childhood obesity in communities.

• The Colorado Health Foundation lists 14.2 percent of children 6 to 12 within the state as being obese. A body mass index at or above the 85th percentile defines a child as obese.

• The program, which is free to families, will run from September to August 2012. Clinic staff members will engage children and family members in physical activity and teach classes about healthy body image, the importance of staying active and proper nutrition.

• Part of the program involves the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Lifestyle plan, which emphasizes five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day, two or less hours of TV or computer time per day, at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day and limiting consumption of soda and sugar-sweetened sports and fruit drinks to zero.

— At least 10 children and their families are needed to participate in the program. To learn more, visit Moffat Family Clinic, 600 Russell St., or call program coordinator Tracey Wall at 824-3252.

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