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New Program Addresses Childhood Obesity

The University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics has launched a new program to help combat childhood obesity in a state that has more overweight children than 48 others. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.The program — called Healthy for Life — is housed in the Children’s Hospital Foundation Building downtown (601 S. Floyd St.) and has a staff with doctors, a dietician, exercise physiologist and psychologist. And it’s been busy since it started in mid-July, says medical director Brooke Sweeney."Here, we’ve seen, in our time, 100 patients and only one of them has not had a secondary complication of obesity," Sweeney says. "Half of them have early signs of diabetes. Half have abnormal cholesterols. A third have elevated blood pressures and a third have problems with sleep."She says those children range from ages 2 to 18.The program was launched after U of L Department of Pediatrics staff saw serious health problems in children in which obesity played a major role."Our pediatric nephrologists, Dr. Dianne Muchant, went to other specialists and said, 'Boy we see a lot of kids who are coming in with complications of obesity, and I feel like I can’t address the real issues going on. All I can do is treat that complication instead of really having a chance to deal with all of the lifestyle issues that go with it,'" Sweeney says.The program provides children and their families with counseling from the staff. Sweeney says the approach is cutting edge."We’re using the things we know do help: multidisciplinary family-centered care particularly for kids," she says. "We also use coaching theory so we call and talk to people quite a bit on the phone to encourage them along the way, to help support them as they’re trying to make changes."The program is supported by a half a million dollar grant from Passport Health Plan, a Medicaid managed care plan and space donated by Kosair Children’s Hospital. The program also is supported by the Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the YMCA of Greater Louisville. Those covered by Passport Health Plan can participate in the program and some health insurance companies will cover some costs to participants.

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