February 25, 2009

Childhood Obesity: Another Glimmer of Hope

Yes, the stats about the numbers of children and adolescents who are overweight (and obese) are glum. And these stats are often topped off with the dismal fact that today’s generation of children are on the road to a shorter life expectancy than recent generations due to obesity, poor eating habits and limited physical activity. But a program here and a policy change there offer glimmers of hope that if enough people, organizations and coalitions work together we can stem this obesity tide and create healthier environments which cultivate weight control and healthy living.

Another glimmer of hope was revealed on 2/19/09: The Alliance Healthcare Initiative is a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Healthier Generation and the American Dietetic Association. This initiative marks the first coordinated national effort by health associations, insurers and employers to offer health benefits to prevent, assess and treat childhood obesity.

Several large health insurers are part of this effort: Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and WellPoint. Several major organizations and corporations will offer these benefits to their employees: Owens Corning, Paychex, PepsiCo as well as two of the organizers, the William J. Clinton Foundation and American Heart Association.

A few details: Children (who are obese or on the verge) and their families will have access to a minimum of four visits with a registered dietitian for nutrition counseling. The nutrition services will be coordinated with visits provided by the child’s primary care physician. More details are available are available at the American Dietetic Association.

And to local news: The Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition is ready to launch (3/13/09) their 9-5-2-1-0 for Health campaign in the wide swath of Northern Virginia--from Prince William to Alexandria City.