Childhood Obesity Part 2: In Our Own Backyard

Local experts have seen a rise in unhealthy weights among Meriden's kids, but the city offers many ways to battle a high BMI

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
Meriden, CT
Age: Girls age 3 through high school
Fee: $30 per year. Financial assistance is available for those who qualify.
Competitive and recreational gymnastics
Tiny Tumblers
Cardio Fitness
Stepping Stones – addressing motor skills development and physical fitness
Mother/daughter Zumba
Mother/daughter Yogalates
Summer Camp – including swimming

Boys & Girls Club “The Positive Place for Kids”
15 Lincoln Street
Meriden, CT
Age: Boys and girls 6 – 18
Fee: $40 per year.
Basketball league
Soccer league
Volleyball league
Fitness Center
Gym classes
Batting cage
Dance team

My City Kitchen “We empower kids to teach parents to eat healthy”
384 Pratt Street
Meriden, CT
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
Birthday parties

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
Parent/Child Yoga
Parent/Child Zumba
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.

Lea Crown March 08, 2011 at 06:34 PM
Great article. The Meriden Health Department also has a limited number of pedometers available if kids (and their parents) would like to follow a 10k step a day program. Parents/guardians can contact me at 203-630-4238 if they would like one.
Joan Goodman October 20, 2011 at 02:09 PM
The Meriden YMCA is helping families live healthier lives and fight childhood obesity with a FREE 8 week program for children ages 7 to 10 years old and their parent(s). These sessions run throughout the year. We recently opened a new Exergame Fitness Arcade with all interactive "kid-powered" games to get kids and families off the couch to have fun while getting healthy. Our FREE program also includes traditional exercise like walking and swimming, nutrition education, healthy eating and shopping tips, and more. Call Carrie at 203-235-6386 x18 or email her at cmarquardt@meridenymca.org for eligibility and enrollment information. For more photos of the Exergame Fitness Arcade, see Johnathon Henninger's September 22nd Viewfiender on meridenpatch.com
Roberta Dolan October 20, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Great program Joan! The YMCA is like a treasure box in our city and there is something for every age and level of fitness.


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