Preventing childhood obesity in Summit
Across Colorado and in Summit County, childhood obesity is a concern, according to presenters at Thursday night’s It’s About Kids forum on children’s health. “It’s our leading public health concern of the last decade,” said Lisa Piscopo, vice president of research for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Information was presented on behalf of It’s About Kids, a small group of local volunteers pursuing the education and mobilization of Summit residents around children’s issues. The group is a grassroots piece of the Children’s Campaign – a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on improving the quality of and expanding access to child health, K-12 education and early childhood experiences throughout the state. Colorado has the second-fastest growing rate of obese and overweight kids, Piscopo said. In Summit County, 3,273 residents were diagnosed as obese in 2009, according to presenter Jannine Walldan, a naturopathic doctor who works at the Summit Community Care Clinic. While the clinic is just starting to track patients with an elevated body mass index, Walldan said there are currently 75 patients being managed for type 2 diabetes.That’s important because while that number applies to adults, many of those patients have children and are probably teaching their kids the same habits, Walldan said. Two teens were diagnosed with the disease at the clinic this year, she said. The same goes for the 30 percent of Medicare patients who are obese – they’re the ones watching the grandkids, Walldan said. So how can Summit prevent a problem? Walldan suggests promoting after-school physical activity programs like Girls on the Run, or the care clinic’s recently launched diabetes workout group. “These programs are key,” Walldan said. “We need to get our youth, particularly our low-income youth, engaged.” Families can be taught how to eat healthy through options like cooking classes and one-on-one visits with health educators. The second option is expensive, but it makes a difference, Walldan said. She personally visits families to go through their fridges and cupboards.Forum attendee Joel Hauswirth, the Summit School District’s nutrition service director, said lunch standards are getting better, which is a move in the right direction, but those habits “need to be mirrored at home.”
Enrolling children is an issue across the state and in Summit, although the numbers seem to be getting better, Piscopo said. In 2010, there were about 42,000 fewer uninsured kids in Colorado than two years prior. While the number of children in Summit County with health insurance rose from 2009 to 2010, almost 18 percent were still uninsured – compared to 10.3 percent across the state.”Summit County is one of the higher ones, but if you couple this with the cost of living, I think it makes sense,” Piscopo said. One of the health insurance options for children, CHP+, is avoided by some parents because of a three-month waiting period before it kicks in.”Many parents choose not to take the risk,” said Tamara Drangstveit, executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. “A lack of health insurance impacts health outcomes negatively.”
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