As a Mom to Mom blogger for Children’s, I recently attended a meeting with the medical team behind the Strong4Life program and other local bloggers. It was eye opening to learn the hard facts, but on the other hand, its was so nice to hear that as a state, Georgia, is putting its best foot forward to stop childhood obesity. Georgia is the 2nd highest rated state for childhood obesity. Children are considered obese if their BMI is greater than the 95th percentile for their age.
Linda Matzigkeit, Chief Administrative Officer for Children’s, and Dr Stephanie Walsh who is a pediatrician with clinical expertise and works closely with the medical staff in the Strong4Life program both listened to what Pediatricians were telling them were their biggest issues with children. Linda stated, ”Ten years ago it was immunization. Now the doctors are asking for help with childhood obesity.” They rose to the challenge and have put together a program that starts at the family level. Let’s face it parents – our children eat what we put in front of them. We need to make sure we are putting nutritious food on the table for our children and not hitting the fast food restaurants just because they are convenient.
The Strong4Life team conducted focus groups with normal, underweight and overweight children. They found that more serious issues are in rural areas. The team developed an approach with a multi-year commitment to lead the fight against childhood obesity in Georgia. The team emphasizes behavior modification when treating the children. Families typically come for one year with visits every month or as needed. The clinic is not a weight loss clinic, but rather it’s a program that emphasizes lifestyle changes and goal setting. Patient care includes regular visits with a nutritionist, exercise scientist and psychologist.
As a family here are some things we can do:
- Take a walk with your family after dinner three evenings a week
- Make sure dinner includes veggies and fruits each day
- Choose grilled fast food items instead of fried options
- Replace one sugar-sweetened beverage with water each day
What are the Core Messages from the Strong4Life program?
- Fill 1/2 your plate with veggies and fruits
- Be active for 60 minutes a day
- Drink more water and limit sugar drinks
- Limit screen time to one hour
Families can attend Camp Strong4Life that is a family based overnight camp. The camp is in its third year and provides targeted interventions for overweight and obese children focusing on increased physical activity, healthy eating and social well-being. The children and families go through lifestyle challenges and the ability to manage negative emotions during lifestyle challenges is something the team helps the families with. Children’s staff is there to help grow their confidence.
Thank you Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for the opportunity to learn more about this important topic and for all you are doing to change behaviors so we can put a stop to childhood obesity.