Childhood obesity group making progress

It’s been more than a year since the Knoxville Area Coalition on Childhood Obesity formed, and the battle hasn’t gotten any smaller.

But at its annual luncheon Thursday, the coalition celebrated some baby steps toward fighting the problem of almost 40 percent of Knox County school-age children being overweight or obese.

The coalition, which now includes 44 organizations, came about after East Tennessee Children’s Hospital started a weight management clinic — only to end up with 300 children on the waiting list. ETCH President Keith Goodwin said the waiting list today is about the same.

The coalition’s goal is to “stop the spiraling upward” trend of childhood obesity rates by 2015, said Eleanor Stevens, the coalition’s coordinator.

That gives it five years to put in place interventions that, based on research, can lead to healthier lifestyles.

The coalition has gotten some heavyweight partners, among them the Tennessee Obesity Task Force and Knox County Schools’ School Health Advisory Council, which just learned its Coordinated School Health program, formerly on the budget chopping block, has been written into Gov. Phil Bredesen’s budget for next year.

It’s partnered with Junior League of Knoxville, Knoxville Academy of Medicine Alliance and Subway for various programs; asked Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers for grants; sponsored a Family Fitness Challenge; brought educational programming to elementary schools, with help from Earth Fare supermarket; and developed a new logo (incorporating the word “Y.E.A.H.!” for “Youth, Education, Activity and Health”).

Now it’s ready to reach out with an upcoming Web site, newsletter and speakers’ bureau to help communities that want to get involved — not only in Knox, but in Anderson, Blount and Sevier counties.

And it plans to work in conjunction with a three-year “Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities” grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is giving Knox County money to make changes in three neighborhoods. Because the grant covers only environmental and policy changes (such as sidewalks and community gardens), Stevens said, the coalition will provide programming.

“Not to have to have a weight management clinic (for children) anymore … that’s the home run,” Goodwin said.

Kristi L. Nelson may be reached at 865-342-6434.
Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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