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Expanded Efforts To Address Nationwide Childhood Overweight Epidemic

Armen Hareyan's picture

Childhood Overweight

A newpartnership between the National Institutes of Health's We Can! (Ways toEnhance Children's Activity and Nutrition) program and the Association ofChildren's Museums (ACM) will expand efforts to address the epidemic ofchildhood overweight, national leaders in public health said today. Inaddition, three major cities -- Boston, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas -- will be designated as We Can! Cities. We Can!,a science-based national education program to help children ages 8-13 stay at ahealthy weight, is now being implemented in more than 450 community sites in 44states.

"Weare coming together with museums, community groups, corporations, healthprofessionals, and educators today to celebrate an exciting, broad-basedcollaboration to address the epidemic of childhood overweight," saidActing U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H., in hisfirst public outreach activity as chair of the Department of Health and HumanServices' new Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative, whichhighlights new approaches to obesity prevention and the promotion of healthyweight for children.

"Morethan twelve and a half million American children and adolescents areoverweight, and are at increased risk for chronic conditions such as high bloodpressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and asthma," Dr. Galson said ."Reducing obesity -- and improving the health of millions of children --will take concerted action by all sectors of society, and We Can! is a modelfor meeting the challenges of childhood overweight."

As part oftoday's events, the mayors of Boston, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas are proclaiming their cities to be We Can!Cities. As We Can! Cities, they have made a commitment to address the issue ofchildhood overweight by putting into practice the We Can! educational programthrough their city employees, community groups, corporate wellness programs,health professionals, or schools. Other We Can! Cities include Roswell,Ga.; South Bend,Ind.; Gary, Ind.; Armstrong County, Pa.; and Carson City, Nev.

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A specialevent today at the Boston Children's Museum brings together Acting SurgeonGeneral Galson; Elias Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH); Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director of the National Heart, Lungand Blood Institute (NHLBI); and Janet Rice Elman, executive director of ACM.The event features the new partnership with ACM as well as We Can!'sevidence-based approach to provide organizations as well as parents andcaregivers with tools to address the problem of childhood overweight.

"Tocreate the We Can! program, NIH brought together the best minds in science fromfour of our Institutes," said Zerhouni. "Today more than ever,parents need sensible guidance to help their kids stay at a healthy weight. WeCan! turns what researchers have learned about preventing overweight intopractical, easy-to use strategies to help families and community groups teachour children to make better food choices, be more physically active, and cutback on TV and computer time."

Inaddition, simultaneous events are being held today in nine cities across thenation to bring attention to the growing success and availability of the WeCan! program. For example, Susan Shurin, M.D., NHLBI deputy director, isparticipating in a We Can! community event at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh,and Griffin Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P., director of NIH's National Institute ofDiabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is participating in a We Can!community event at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, whichfeatures local chefs and fitness instructors. Similar events are taking placein Las Vegas; Memphisand Oak RidgeTenn.;Rockford, Ill.;and Carson City, Nev. to demonstrate how communities areusing the We Can! program at the local level.

ACM joins40 other national and corporate partners implementing We Can! in communitycenters, schools, health care settings, corporate wellness programs, andfaith-based organizations to help families work with their children towardhealthier lifestyles.

"Wejoin this important movement against childhoodoverweight today by becoming a We Can! partner, bringing our 340 museums tothe table to provide new health education tools and activities," saidACM's Rice Elman. "It is our hope that our unique exhibits and interactivevenues will help deliver critical messages and recommendations about healthychoices, while ensuring that school groups and families have fun at the sametime."