The number of obese children and adolescents in the United States tripled between 1980 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Far too many children and their families do not have proper nutrition and physical activity as part of their daily lives. Data show these children to be at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Adolescents in particular are more likely to have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
At Cincinnati Children’s, we have made reducing the trend of childhood obesity in our community part of our strategic plan. Monica Mitchell, PhD, and Bob Siegel, MD, along with partners in the community are leading the work to develop targeted programs that reach into schools, private practices and the community and which empower parents and families to improve the weight and overall health of children. Supported by the James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence, we will apply the principles of improvement science to drive our work, tracking data over time to measure improvement and identify barriers.
Efforts will focus initially on obesity in Avondale, a high-risk geographic population within Hamilton County in which 32 percent of children in both South Avondale and Rockdale schools have been identified to be obese or overweight.
Our work in Avondale will take place in three areas:
- The educational system, where we will help schools improve how they provide nutrition education to both students and parents
- In communities, where we will address issues such as access to fresh produce
- At Cincinnati Children’s, where universal BMI screening will be conducted annually as part of an effort to share data and encourage obesity prevention strategies with children and parents