WASHINGTON – A nonprofit research-based organization claims its new program can help lower the rate of childhood obesity.
In a 2006 survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,17.1 percent of children ages 2 to 19 were obese. That is up about 3 percentage points for girls and 4 percentage points for boys since 1999. The data in the report is from 2004,the most recent available. Nearly a third of adults were overweight,according the same report.
“People always want to talk about the problem,but we are going to talk about the solution,” said David Walsh,who holds a doctorate in psychology and is president of the private organization National Institute on Media and the Family.
Walsh's organization has created a program called “Switch,what they do,view and chew.” The program is a collaborative effort between children,families and schools to improve and maintain healthy lifestyles for students.
After signing up,parents receive a kit once a month for five months containing recipes and suggested activities for the whole family. Children earn points for decreasing screen activity – watching TV or using the Internet – and increasing active play. The students receive rewards such as pencils and notebooks through a point system.
Dr. Frederick J. Corder,a pediatrician in Bowie,Md.,who isn't familiar with the program,thinks it may work.
“When you are dealing with obesity,families must be committed. Any time families work to increase active play and exercise,it helps.”
Corder said families should be realistic when dealing with children who are obese.
“You have to set reasonable goals. They didn't gain it all at once,so they won't lose it all in once.”
Walsh said his program had positive results in Cedar Rapids,Iowa,and Lakeville,Minn.,where it was tested. Walsh said 60 percent of 600 students reduced their screen time by the end of the program. Of that 60 percent,40 percent were eating more vegetables.
“If you give families the tools,they are willing to try,” Walsh said.
To increase public awareness about the program,the company has released a public service announcement that will air in 27 national media market,including Washington,New York and Philadelphia.
Walsh introduced the program and the PSA at a recent Washington news conference.
Walsh said 36 school districts have expressed interest in the Switch program,including Memphis city schools. Walsh and his team of researchers are in the process of getting their study published.
The National Institute on Media and the Family is a research-based company in Minneapolis. It has been providing research and education on issues related to children since 1996. The company's mission is to help promote healthy families through positive media images.