Western Baptist Hospital has initiated and supported several programs in the region aimed at educating, informing and alleviating the national epidemic of childhood obesity. Our goal is to make children — and their parents and caregivers — “heart smart.”
One in three U.S. children is overweight or obese, which can lead to serious health problems now and later. National surveys show that 20 percent of preschoolers and 30 percent of school-age children are overweight, with 15 percent of school-age children considered obese. In the last 20 years, the number of overweight children has doubled, while the number of obese adolescents has tripled.
We need to intervene early to educate children, parents, teachers and anyone involved in their care to make their adult lives healthy and happy. We know preventing or treating childhood obesity may reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
We have taken several of these efforts to schools:
A bit of wizardy and pigs
Western Baptist funded the fitness program, Project Fit America, at Paducah’s McNabb and Graves Central elementary schools with plans to announce a third school soon. New playground equipment with fitness stations offered new activity options, while the accompanying curriculum and teacher training for all grade levels integrates a fit lifestyle in their daily lessons.
We teamed with Paducah’s McNabb Elementary to present “The Wizard of Health,” a play based on The Wizard of Oz characters, to teach children what happens if they choose bad heart habits like smoking, overeating and not exercising.
While teachers played the Oz characters plagued by obesity and other health problems, the wizard explained portion control, fitness habits and lifestyle choices to help students find the yellow brick road to heart health. It was a fun way to reach out to children and pique their interest early on.
It takes some imagination to get the interest of middle schoolers, and pig parts seemed just the way to do it.
With pig organs gathered from a local slaughterhouse, we showed students the effects of fat on their bodies. The lesson was so well-received, we videotaped it to make it available to other classrooms.
The middle school video and a copy of the “Wizard” program are posted on YouTube at youtube.com/Western Baptist.
Sept. 5: A soccer day
Western Baptist is sponsoring Futskilz Soccer Training’s “Fight Against Child Obesity” with fun activities and education for the region’s youth from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 5, at the McCracken County Soccer Complex. The event is free for parents and their children.
Sept. 12: The day to Start!
Adults also need to get into action. Walking has the lowest drop-out rate of any physical activity, and it’s the simplest positive change individuals can make to effectively improve heart health.
Western Baptist partners with the American Heart Association to bring Start!, a workplace walking program, to its employees, and other area businesses. Free Start! kits, including ways to motivate employees and track their progress, are available by phoning Western Baptist at (270) 575-2777.
Everyone can Start! walking at the McCracken County Start! Heart Walk. It will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Noble Park. Western Baptist is the title sponsor. Register online at www.heartwalk.kintera.org/mccrackencountyky or call Lori Holland at (502) 371-6013.