How do the children of Meriden measure up to the that 1 in 3 children in this country are overweight or obese?
The most current data available from the Meriden Health Department was published in April, 2008. In an Obesity Assessment Report of third-grade students in Meriden statistics showed:
56% of all third-grade boys are At Risk or Overweight.
44% of all third-grade girls are At Risk or Overweight.
Convincing? I’d say so but to be sure I called pediatrician Luis Alonso. Alonso has followed the trends of three generations of children in his thirty-six years practicing in Meriden.
When asked if childhood obesity was a rising problem in our town Alonso said, “We see it every day.”
He explained that in the “old days” doctors used charts to show parents what percentile their child was in for height and weight. Today medical records are computerized. Using a child’s height and weight the computer automatically calculates a child’s BMI (body mass index). A BMI above 25 is considered overweight; over 30 is considered obese.
Alonso has seen an increase in overweight and obese children as well as in the health concerns related to weight. Hypertension, diabetes, rashes and orthopedic problems due to the stress on immature bones and joints were some of the more common ones.
Michelle Bourdeau, Executive Director of Meriden Girl’s Inc., an organization providing programs for over 1,500 girls each year agreed with Alonso.
“We see the same trends our nation faces in our community," she said.
Evidence supports that childhood obesity is a growing epidemic locally as well as nationally. First Lady Michelle Obama recently initiated the nationwide campaign "Let’s Move" and President Obama signed the "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act." The American Academy of Pediatrics advises doctors to write a prescription for overweight and at-risk children including time allotted for exercise and television along with portion control for meals.
The question now is what is our town doing to help combat the epidemic?
Meriden is one community that offers a variety of opportunities for children to maintain a healthy weight. Here are a few organizations we’ve found who are committed to teaching children to live healthy lives.
Girls Inc. “Inspiring all girls to be Strong, Smart, and Bold”
130 Lincoln Street
Age: Girls age 3 through high school
Fee: $30 per year. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.
Competitive and recreational gymnastics
Stepping Stones – addressing motor skills development and physical fitness
Summer Camp – including swimming
Boys & Girls Club “The Positive Place for Kids”
15 Lincoln Street
Age: Boys and girls 6 – 18
Fee: $40 per year.
My City Kitchen “We empower kids to teach parents to eat healthy”
384 Pratt Street
www.mycitykitchen.orgMission is to instill healthy eating habits, build confidence, self-esteem, establish basic life-skills and foster a sense of belonging in young children so that they may grow into healthy adults.
Ages: 6 – 17
Fee: $100/5 week program. Grants and sliding scale available based on need.
Classes teaching food preparation, nutrition and cooking on a budget
One day cooking classes
YMCA “Strong Kids Strong Families Strong Communities”
110 West Main Street
Ages: 3 – adult
Fee: birth – grade 8; $8.50/mo grades 9 – 12; $19.50/mo
Household membership rates and financial assistance for qualifying individuals and families available
The YMCA offers a full range of fitness activities, lessons and team sports. Here are just a few.
Strength Training Sports Fitness camp
PACE (Physical Activity Changes Everything) a special program for children dealing with weight issues
Exergaming The latest trend in partnering physical fitness with video games.
Mountain Mist Day Camp
To find out more about the programs offered at each facility please call the number listed.
Nutritionists, pediatricians, child psychologists and fitness experts who work with children all agree on one important factor to combating childhood obesity:
Treating childhood obesity means treating the whole family.
Families need to change their lifestyle in relation to television viewing; exercise and eating habits and the community must play a role in providing support.