According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in six (17%) of children in the U.S. has obesity. Children with obesity are at higher risk for other chronic health problems and diseases, and they are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression and low self-esteem.
Childhood obesity is a health concern in Douglas County, since approximately 30% of children who live in the county are overweight (in the 85th percentile of Body Mass Index, or BMI) or obese (95th percentile of BMI). In order to address this issue, CHI Health, in partnership with the University of Nebraska at Omaha Health Physical Education and Recreation Department; the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health; and other partners developed the Healthy Families program in 2007.
The Healthy Families program, which is available for patients at OneWorld, is a research-informed, community- and family-based intervention for children and their families designed to help children and families improve their health through one-one-one care and case management. The program is free, and nutrition, physical activity and behavioral health topics are taught by qualified health professionals.
OneWorld providers refer patients to the program if they meet certain criteria. The child must be a OneWorld patient, be age 6 or older, have a BMI of 25 or greater (falling above 85% percentile for weight based on age) and be Spanish-speaking. When a family is referred to the program, the family receives an in-person overview of Healthy Families, then if they decide to participate, they are enrolled.
Once enrolled in the program, families learn to adopt healthy lifestyle habits related to nutrition, including shopping economically; reading nutrition labels; lowering sugar, salt and fat intake; and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Patients also increase self-efficacy in identifying, purchasing and preparing healthy foods.
The program also focuses on physical activity and behavioral health. Patients participate in physical activities and discussions about the importance of physical activity, and they attend discussions about family goal-setting, motivation, encouragement and role-modeling. Resources are also available for children who may have issues with bullying, self-esteem or other mental health issues.
By focusing on nutrition, physical activity and behavioral health, Healthy Families program at OneWorld is helping young patients achieve and maintain healthy weights.