UF program sponsors local workshop to teach parents, children about ways to fight obesity
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In recognition of National Childhood Obesity Month, the University of Florida Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program will sponsor a workshop Thursday for parents and children of the Alachua County Public Schools Head Start Program.
The Health-Smart Head Start Workshop is a part of a national effort to eradicate childhood obesity in the United States and ensure young people get a healthy start in life.
The workshop is scheduled for 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, 3575 NE 15th St., Gainesville. Parents will learn strategies to increase their children’s health-promoting behaviors. The workshop is an abbreviated version of the 6-week Health-Smart Behavior Program, which has been shown to be effective in reducing body mass index and increasing healthy eating and physical activity in families.
During the past four decades, obesity rates have soared among all age groups, increasing more than fourfold among children 6 to 11. More than 23 million children and teenagers, or 31.8 percent of those 2 to 19, are obese or overweight, a statistic that leads health and medical experts to consider childhood obesity to be an epidemic.
“The growing rate of childhood obesity in our country is alarming,” said Carolyn M. Tucker, Florida Blue Endowed Chair in Health Disparities Research and director of the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program. “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program, and the Alachua County Public Schools Head Start Program recognize the serious threat obesity poses to the health of America’s children and the importance of decreasing its prevalence not only in Gainesville, but across the entire United States.”
Obese youth have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese adults and are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults. As a result, these youth are at higher risk for associated adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.
The cost of childhood obesity is $14 billion per year in direct health care costs alone. Americans spend approximately 9 percent of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses. Additionally, there are psychosocial consequences for obese children that can hinder academic and social functioning and persist into adulthood.
“Childhood obesity is entirely preventable. It is critically important for children to participate in physical activity and to engage in healthy eating habits,” said Ann Crowell, director of Health Start and Preschool Education for the Alachua County School Board. “It’s up to adults to encourage these healthy habits. We are excited about partnering with Dr. Tucker and the Health-Smart Behavior Program to help our Head Start parents to do just that.”
September 2010 was the first National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, established by presidential and congressional proclamations.
“Childhood obesity is a public health crisis. We must work toward eliminating obesity so that young people will have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives,” Tucker said. “The Health-Smart Head Start Workshop provides a special opportunity to increase awareness of the need to eliminate childhood obesity and to empower parents with the tools needed to fulfill their important role in promoting their children’s health.”
The UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program was launched in May 2010 as a universitywide program based in the UF College of Medicine. The goal of the program is to promote interdisciplinary research with implications for increasing health promoting behaviors and decreasing health risk behaviors among minorities and the underserved.
“We are committed to eliminating obesity disparities through community health promotion programs that engage and empower racial/ethnic minority, medically underserved, and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities to take charge of their health under whatever conditions that exist in their lives,” Tucker said.
In observance of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month this September, organizations, advocates, and families nationwide are again planning events and activities to promote awareness of childhood obesity and ways to combat it. Information and resources are available online at http://ufhealthdisparities.med.ufl.edu/.
For more information, call 352-273-2167.
- Tya M. Arthur, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-273-2150