challenging childhood obesity in collier county

Healthy KidsHealthcare Network strives to give every child the chance at a healthy life. This month, 25 Immokalee children and their siblings received that chance as part of a new childhood obesity program – Salud Immokalee - offered by Healthcare Network in partnership with the University of Florida Family Nutrition Program, Florida State University College of Medicine and Immokalee Arts in Health. Participants in this 12 month program are Healthcare Network pediatric patients whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is at or above the 95% percentile. Most of these children have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and are already at risk for developing diabetes. Without intervention, they face a lifetime of poor health.

Every other week for 16 weeks, Salud Immokalee participants, along with their parents, receive classroom instruction and hands on learning built around three essential elements…

Nutrition

The nutrition curriculum, provided by a registered dietician and health educators from The University of Florida Family Nutrition Program, includes everything from food label reading to pre- planning meals to shopping on a budget, and even offers a grocery store tour to help participants make better choices with limited resources. How to respect your culture but still eat healthy is also addressed, as is the impact that sugary beverages have on your overall health.

Physical Activity

Program participants not only learn about the good types of exercise, how to measure heart rate, and how excessive screen time can affect their weight, but they are challenged to get physical after each class. They can choose Zumba Dancing or soccer drills. The goal is to guide them towards more intense exercises.

Behavioral Health

Children in the program are given the information, tools and motivation they need to ultimately change their unhealthy behaviors while parents receive guidelines for improving their parenting skills, which have been shown to directly impact a child’s health and weight.

Improvements across several areas will be measured throughout the program including weight, cholesterol and insulin levels, and participants are required to keep a log of their exercise and screen time. Once the 16 week intervention is complete, Healthcare Network will continue to contact program participants for an additional 8 months to offer advice and support and to continue improvement measures.

“What we want to do is change behavior,” said Dr. Javier Rosado, staff psychologist at Healthcare Network and the program’s developer. “Research shows us that it takes at least 12 months of consistent contact to really make an impact. Once these kids know how to take control of their health and weight, with the support of their parents, they’ll be empowered to live healthier lives.”