Healthy You program helps Tidewater area children

Published 7:25 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

A local service provided by a children’s hospital aims to decrease the number of children who are at risk for health problems.

CHKD hosts a Healthy You program in area communities for children between ages 3 and 18 who are in the 85th percentile for their body mass index.

“There are a lot of medical consequences to being overweight,” said Barbara Benson, RN and manager of CHKD’s Healthy You program.


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Among those medical consequences are a growing number of young people with high blood pressure, hypertension, joint pain and type 2 diabetes — all issues closely related to obesity.

“A lot of what we used to reserve as adult issues have become an issue because of the epidemic of obesity,” said Dr. Dominique Williams, medical director for the program.

The Healthy You program tries to decrease the number of children who are at risk of health problems especially diabetes by working with the children and their parents to adopt a lifestyle which is physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

In this program, children and their parents attend lifestyle classes twice a week in which they learn healthy eating and exercise habits and tips for combating emotional eating. The goal is for children and their parents to learn how to exercise and eat properly, how to combat emotional eating and other issues that may cause them to want to eat, how to read nutritional labels and more.

“Parents are a critical component of it,” Williams said.

Parents and children attend the classes together so that parents can lead their children by example while helping their children to make better choices when it comes to food and exercise.

Children in the program are evaluated and instructed by a nurse, a physician, a physical therapist, a dietician and a social worker at different times throughout the course of the program.

The medical team helps parents and children look at many different factors that might be causing the child’s weight gain.

“To tackle the problem of obesity is never just one solution,” Benson said. “What makes us different and unique from other weight management programs is that we put a lot of emphasis on emotional well-being.”

“It allows them to focus on the issues in life that make them focus on food,” Williams added.

As part of the program, children and their parents actually go on a grocery store tour to learn how to shop for healthy foods. Benson said that when people come in, they usually have only a vague sense of what is good for them and what is not.

“Most people don’t take the time to read labels,” Benson said. “It’s a matter of making daily choices to eat the right things. It doesn’t have to be just because you have a family genetic component.”

This program has been in existence since 2001. It began at CHKD, but it has since expanded into other places. They hope to be able to bring it to the Suffolk area in the next few months through grant funding.