Campus: CSU Chico -- December 14, 2001
CSU Chico Grant to Address Health Hazards of Overweight
California State University, Chico, in partnership with a number of
public and private entities, has received a $590,000 grant to oversee
a program in Butte County for the prevention of unhealthy weight gain
in children and the treatment of overweight children. The program is titled
OPT (Overweight, Prevention, and Treatment) for Fit Kids.
Data collected over the past five years shows an increase in the number
of county children who are in the 95th percentile in weight for their
age and height, reflecting a widespread national trend. Overweight children
experience health problems that can extend into adulthood.
The Children and Families Commission of Butte County awarded the grant
to the university, which has also been awarded partial matching funds
from the California Nutrition Network. The program will have more than
$700,000 to aid county children for the three-year term of the grant.
The commission is directed to award funds from state tobacco tax money
to directly benefit the health of young children.
Faye Johnson, professor in the Nutrition and Food Sciences Program, and
Cindy Wolff, coordinator of the program, will oversee the grant implementation.
Wolff also wrote and was awarded an initial $40,000 planning grant for
the effort to aid overweight children.
Among the partners in the grant are Enloe Medical Center, Butte County
Department of Public Health, Butte County WIC, Butte County UC Cooperative
Extension, the CA 5 A Day program, and Butte County Head Start. In addition,
Michele Brackett, health educator for Butte County's Department of Public
Health, has been assigned part-time to the project.
Wolff said diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol,
which are often directly correlated to being overweight, are the chief
health concerns. She said very heavy children can exhibit early signs
of diabetes, which can lead to cardiovascular and other health problems.
Being overweight as a child is a strong predictor of being overweight
as an adult, Wolff said.
Diet is one culprit in the increase in overweight children. "More
and more families decide it's easier to eat out, and choose high calorie
fast food," said Johnson. "Also, with more parents working,
children are increasingly responsible for preparing their own meals, resulting
in more high-calorie, high-fat meals," she added.
Just as important, however, is the lack of physical activity among many
children. Johnson said a decreasing number of children pass the fitness
exams given in elementary schools. She said fewer children walking to
school, and increasing hours of children playing video games and watching
TV, are contributing factors to the change.
The OPT for Fit Kids program has three components: medical nutrition therapy
services for overweight children and their families, an educational awareness
campaign for the public and nutrition education in schools. Medical nutrition
therapy services will be extended after overweight children have been
identified and referred by health care practitioners. The families then
have the opportunity to speak with a dietitian, attend workshops and obtain
OPT program services are free for children ages 5 and under and for low
income children ages 6 and up. Services are available on a sliding scale
for all others. The awareness campaign and nutrition education components
of the program will educate county residents about childhood health risks
associated with being overweight, and about strategies for promoting healthy
eating and activity practices.
To help introduce the program, a Pediatric Overweight Symposium was held
Dec. 12, at the Enloe Conference Center and was attended by about 80 pediatric
health professionals. Dr. Dennis Styne, pediatric endocrinologist from
UC Davis, was keynote speaker, presenting information on "Childhood
Obesity and its Complications: Facing a New Epidemic." Dr. Mark Lundberg,
Health Officer, Butte County Department of Public Health, spoke on "Pediatric
Overweight Trends in Butte County," and Professor Wolff spoke on
"Using BMI to Assess Pediatric Patients and Local Services Available
for Pediatrics in Butte County."
For more information about the program, contact Cindy Wolff at 530-898-6164,
Michele Brackett at 530-891-2861 or Faye Johnson at 530-898-6767.