Obesity Pilot Program Targets Preschoolers

Obesity Pilot Program Targets Preschoolers

Project to evaluate impact of early intervention on healthy eating habits and active living.

Written by betphill

A $50,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to the School of Nursing will fund childhood obesity research.

A $50,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to the School of Nursing will fund childhood obesity research.

As part of its efforts to address the nation’s obesity epidemic, the Aetna Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to the School of Nursing to pilot-test a childhood obesity-prevention project in Lubbock.

The program is aimed at 4- and 5-year-olds from low-income Hispanic families, who are at higher risk of developing obesity and its related diseases, like diabetes and heart disease.

Du Feng, Ph.D., professor at the School of Nursing and the project’s principal investigator, said addressing obesity in the state’s Hispanic population is of utmost importance.

“Nearly 50 percent of Hispanic children in grades kindergarten through sixth in southeast Texas have been measured above the 85th percentile on the Body Mass Index (BMI),” Feng said. “If we are to reverse these alarming statistics, we need to reach children with proven methods to instill healthier lifestyles at younger ages. Our goal is to assist low-income families to create and sustain healthy environments that promote the prevention of childhood obesity.”

A Fresh Approach

Unlike most childhood obesity prevention programs that treat school-age children and adolescents, the new project has designed its home-visit family intervention program for at-risk preschoolers to help the young children and their families adopt healthy eating habits and active lifestyles before harmful behaviors become an ingrained way of life.

“Childhood is a critical period for developing a predisposition to lifelong obesity,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of its regional grants. “Data shows that upwards of three-fourths of obese children become obese adults and obesity’s impact on overall health can be devastating. By reaching out to at-risk children before age 6 and engaging the entire family, the TTUHSC program has great potential to help children enjoy good health throughout their lives.”

The program aimed at preschoolers is similar to TTUHSC’s obesity-prevention program that had significant success several years ago when introduced to overweight children ages 5 to 8 in Lubbock and San Elizario. Children who participated in the program became more physically active, drank fewer sweetened beverages and had a slower growth rate of body fat and increase of percentile in BMI than the overweight children who did not receive the intervention program.

Getting A Head Start

The new project, which began Jan. 15, targets approximately 60 families of predominantly Hispanic preschool students enrolled in Head Start programs at two Lubbock elementary schools. Promotoras, or community health workers, will make a minimum of 10 home visits over a six- to 12-week period to provide individualized, culturally appropriate education and social support to encourage healthy eating habits and active lifestyles, such as ample access to nutrient-dense foods and beverages for meals and snacks, avoiding use of food as a reward, having breakfast, reducing television and video game time, increasing fun and feasible physical activities for the entire family and sharing meals together.

At the end of the intervention period, researchers will compare the results of the program to those targeting older children to gain a better understanding of the optimal age for children to be engaged in obesity-prevention efforts. The findings have implications for obesity-prevention programs across the country.


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One comment on “Obesity Pilot Program Targets Preschoolers

  1. Angela Marsh on said:

    Yes! This is what we need. Education! It all starts with kids. If we set bad example for kids, we can’t expect them to stay healthy when they grow up. As Sharon Dalton said: “Childhood is a critical period for developing a predisposition to lifelong obesity.”

    We need to show kids that physical exercise is cool and that green food can also be delicious. Good diet and exercise is crucial.

    We need more programs like this!

    Angela Marsh

Aetna Foundation
Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $394 million in grants and sponsorships, including $15.6 million in 2010. Aetna’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S., promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care, and advancing integrated health care.

School of Nursing
School of Nursing

The School of Nursing began in 1979 with the development of the first nationally accredited Continuing Nursing Education Program in Texas.

With campuses in Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene, Dallas and the Permian Basin, the school offers a variety of programs:

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