Alegent Health collaborative program is teaching one metro family the keys to why kids should be fit.
OMAHA, Neb.— High calorie snacks combined with sugary drinks and the desire to watch TV rather than head outdoors to play are proving to be a recipe for childhood obesity. In Nebraska, one in every three K-12 students is overweight or at risk of being overweight. For this reason, Alegent Health, Boys Town Pediatrics, the Gallup Organization and the YMCA are joining together to host the Y Kids Be Fit program designed to combat youth obesity right here in Omaha.
“Childhood obesity is quickly becoming an epidemic among our young people right here in Omaha. We must take steps to curb these staggering statistics,” said Joan Neuhaus, vice president of Women’s and Children’s services at Alegent Health. “As part of our Mission, Alegent Health is passionate about collaborating with other organizations to combat this growing health issue which begins by teaching kids that diet and exercise can and should be a fun part of their daily routine for a healthy life.”
Y Kids Be Fit is a 12-week program that begins Feb. 12, 2008 and is geared towards adolescents between the ages of 10-14, with a weight or BMI at or above the 95th percentile. Participants must have a referral from their physician in order to be admitted in the program. The overall goal of Y Kids Be Fit is to help improve kids’ health and wellness by losing weight, becoming active and learning the importance diet and exercise play in overall good health.
This will be 10-year-old Ashely Jimenez’s second time participating in the program. Both she and her mom are looking forward to getting back into healthy habits. “The Y Kids Be Fit program taught us how to cut back on snacks and fast food and instead, incorporate healthy meals into our busy lifestyles. Also, having the class at the Y made it easy to stick to an exercise routine,” said Kylie Jimenez, Ashley’s mom.
Participants like Ashley and her mom meet twice a week with various health professionals and fitness instructors to address issues and obstacles in managing their weight; including diet, eating habits, menu planning, behavioral skills and exercise. Kylie says portion control is key. “Learning to eat off smaller plates and understanding what an actual serving size looks like were really beneficial. Also, the program taught Ashely how to recognize a true hunger pain from just being bored and how to eat until she’s satisfied, rather than full.”
Dietitians will work with participants and their families to build healthy eating habits. The Gallup Strengths Explorer will be administered to every participant to help them identify and capitalize on their individual strengths to build self esteem. Alegent Health Behavioral Health professionals will provide behavioral coaching to sustain gains. Kids will be encouraged to maintain a weekly journal of their food intake and activity levels to help track their success throughout the program.
Beyond the classroom, Y Kids Be Fit also encourages kids to be active. Participants are required to complete light or moderate levels of exercise and each child will take an initial fitness test in an effort to get a baseline for goal setting and progression. To help them succeed, both kids and their families will have free access to any YMCA in the greater Omaha area in order to achieve the required physical activity, sports and/or strength building goals.
Y Kids Be Fit is just one example of how Alegent Health is collaborating with public health officials, school leaders and health care providers to tackle the problem at the community level. In 2007, Alegent Health and Our Healthy Community Partnership (OHCP) formed the community-based initiative called Activate Omaha Kids.
After a series of strategy meetings including a “decision acceleration’’ session, local medical providers, public health officials and school and civic leaders provided an action plan for the community with the goal: to make Omaha a national leader in youth fitness and nutrition by 2011.
Nebraska’s obesity rate outpaces the rest of the nation and one in every three Nebraska K-12 students is overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.