Grant to Independence School District Aims to Reduce Childhood Obesity

KANSAS CITY, MO – The percentage of overweight children in the United States is growing at an alarming rate. In the past 25 years, the number of overweight children has over doubled in children ages 6 to 11 and tripled in those 12 to 17. In Missouri, the numbers are even worse – 22% of adolescents measured overweight (national average is 14%).

The best defense against obesity is to exercise daily and eat a healthy diet, yet the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports that 49% of girls and 37% of boys failed to meet aerobic capacity requirements.

To help fight childhood obesity, the Health Forward Foundation awarded the Independence School District in 2006 with a two-year, $387,122 Healthy Lifestyles grant to implement two health programs developed by Drs. David and Catherine Katz – ABC for Fitness and Nutrition Detectives.

The programs aim to promote healthy lifestyles and reverse the trend of obesity among students and their families. The nutrition education component, Nutrition Detectives, builds competency in food label interpretation and healthful food selection, while the physical activity component, ABC for Fitness, incorporates brief bursts of activity in the classroom. By the end of the grant, the program will be provided to all 4,805 children in grades K-5.

In the first year of the grant, training sessions were held for over 100 classroom and physical education teachers and programs were implemented at three sites. Results show strong enthusiasm for the program among students, parents, and teachers alike. There were early indications of:

Increase in nutrition knowledge and physical activity
Improvement in energy intake and classroom behaviors
Reduction in BMI
Dr. Jon Pye, Principal of Bryant Elementary reports that “both programs have supported us in creating a mindset of wellness for our entire building.”

Due to the success of both programs the Independence School District has added both programs to the district’s K-5 health curriculum and its School Health Advisory Council is currently working on future wellness initiatives. For more information, please contact Jennifer Walker, Director of Youth Development, at 816-521-2700.