Northeast Iowa chosen for childhood obesity program - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Northeast Iowa chosen for childhood obesity program


Northeast Iowa is now part of a national effort aimed at battling childhood obesity.

The National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort, called Collaborate for Healthy Weight. Only 50 regions nationwide have been chosen to participate. NICHQ chose the Iowa Department of Public Health, which is focusing its efforts on northeast Iowa.

As part of her job as school nurse at Central Community School in Elkader, Vicki Carolan records students' heights and weights every year. She said she has seen an alarming trend throughout her 13 years in the profession.

"Years ago, you were doing heights and weights to identify malnutrition in students, and that has totally switched over from malnutrition to finding the student that has a weight problem," Carolan said.

Statistics show, nearly one-third of all kids and teens in the US are overweight or obese. It's why Carolan and Haleisa Johnson are part of a mission to raise awareness about childhood obesity and promote healthy living.

Johnson is the foundation director and educational coordinator for Elkader's Central Community Hospital.

"We're really focusing on kids improving their health through good nutrition, local food and physical activity," she said.

The community will have added help doing that now with the Collaborate for Healthy Weight effort.

"We're hoping that it will help us reach out to the medical communities in northeast Iowa, so it stretches out beyond the schools as well," Johnson said.

The program will emphasize healthy, locally-grown food and promote physical activities for kids.

This is not a new emphasis for northeast Iowa, however.

Every student at Central Community School is participating in Live Healthy Iowa Kids, and six northeast Iowa counties -- Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek -- have been involved with Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness since the program's inception several years ago.

The fruit of these efforts may be seen in Carolan's student measurements. She said she measures students' Body Mass Index (BMI), and the average BMI for elementary school-aged children dropped five percent from last year and three percent the year before that.

Johnson says northeast Iowa's preexisting groundwork laid for promoting healthy choices for kids led to getting picked for the Collaborate for Healthy Weight effort.

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