New obesity program focuses on kids

Northeastern University, the Boston Red Sox and Children’s Hospital Boston recently launched a pilot pro-gram to prevent childhood obesity. The community-based initiative will engage parents and child care provid-ers for pre-school-age children at two Jamaica Plain Head Start sites and in four other neighborhoods.

On April 15, Mayor Thomas Menino joined Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun; Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino; and Dr. James Mandell, CEO of Children’s Hospital Boston at a Head Start site in Lower Roxbury to announce the launch of Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures (HKHF). The purpose of the program is to engage early child care providers and caregivers to promote healthy eating and increased physical activity among pre-school age children living in Fenway, Mission Hill, the South End and Lower Rox-bury, as well as JP.

“Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures is a wonderful example of the impact that partnerships among our city’s colleges and universities, businesses and hospitals can have on the community,” said Menino.

A study published in the April 2009 issue of the “Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine” found that 1 in 5 American 4-year-olds is overweight. In Boston, one-third of high school students are overweight or obese, with Latino and African American students having higher rates than whites. HKHF supports citywide efforts to break the cycle of childhood obesity, which has been linked to a host of chronic diseases later in life.

HKHF will be working with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Head Start providers to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of healthy eating and increased physical activity among pre-school-age children.

A series of informational workshop sessions on nutrition and physical activity will be held for ABCD Head Start staff at four pilot sites (Parker Hill/Fenway, North American Indian Center, Jamaica Plain and Rox-bury/Lenox Head Starts). Bilingual physical activity and healthy eating education workshops will be offered to the families and caregivers of the children enrolled at those ABCD sites.

“The Healthy Kids-Healthy Futures” program exemplifies Northeastern’s Stony Brook Initiative, which is fundamentally about community engagement,” said Northeastern’s Aoun. “Complex problems require collaborative solutions.”

“We hope that by supporting this innovative program we can make a difference in reducing obesity rates among Boston youth,” said Mandell of Children’s Hospital Boston. “We see the consequences of childhood obe-sity on a daily basis, with an increased incidence of diabetes and other diseases that can have life-long implications.

On July 10, select participants from Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures and ABCD providers will be honored during a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park for their participation in the program.

“The Boston Red Sox have a long tradition of community involvement in these neighborhoods, and we are excited to be building on that with the launch of Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures,” said Lucchino of the Red Sox.
From press materials.

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