Barbara Randall (right), a registered nurse, checks the pulse and blood pressure of Olivia Jones, 7, at the Lourdes hospital Marshall Nemer Pavilion in July during a screening event for children at Washington Street Baptist Church. The Lourdes Kids CARDIAC Academy compiles data from such screening sessions to provide families a breakdown of BMI, blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels.
Lourdes CARDIAC Kids Academy is working with educators to send health representatives into schools to stress healthy life choices, include exercise and diet.
Aimed at curbing an increasingly troubling health trend among today’s children, statistics of the area’s elementary-age children compiled by a local health organization highlight an ever-present battle against growing waistlines.
Only weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its annual Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System data that reported 15.2 percent of McCracken County children (2 years and older) in the WIC program were considered overweight and 13.29 obese, the national non-profit organization, Trust for America’s Health, released a report that projects adult obesity levels in every state to skyrocket near 44 percent by 2030.
That organization also found that currently about 20.6 percent of Kentucky’s children, age 10-17, are considered overweight (determined by a body mass index score), while 64.9 percent of the state’s adults are also overweight, according to the Associated Press.
And with numbers that high, health care professionals are increasingly concerned for further health complications down the road. But Lourdes CARDIAC Kids Academy is one organization that hopes to stem the tide early with routine screening and tracking.
Lindsey Wiles, health and wellness coordinator at Lourdes hospital, heads the program, which screens fourth-graders at schools across McCracken, Graves, Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman and Fulton counties, for risk factors leading to heart disease.
Voluntary screenings check children for high cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure levels, BMI and family history, then the data is compiled into individual results families can assess and take to their physicians.
Currently following 16 schools and about 965 children, Wiles’ screening data offered sobering results: BMI statistics from 2010-12 showed 33 percent of screened children were considered overweight and 32 percent of children obese.
“The more I look at these numbers, I think it’s about setting aside time, and that’s one of the hardest things to do,” Wiles said. “You have to set aside time and lead by example if we want to get rid of this problem.
“These kids aren’t failing us, they’re just children. We’re failing them as a society.”
Through a coordinated effort with educators, the program has sent health representatives into the schools to stress healthy life choices, exercise and diet. Schools’ family resource centers have also partnered to provide individual nutrition and education follow up for families in need.
With the release of these findings, Wiles said she hoped members of the community will recognize the problem and take an opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives.
“We hope this raises awareness and alerts our families,” she said. “I hope (the data) finds community champions out there, people that step up and say I’m going to start a school running program or someone saying I’m going to step up and look at lunches. I hope we can turn the tide.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.