Specialists at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital are launching an obesity treatment program for children between the ages of six and 12. Dr. Stacy McConkey, medical director of the Iowa City hospital’s disabilities and development program, says it’s a 12-week program that will involve the children — and the parents.
McConkey says the parents will be educated about dietary issues and the psychology or behavioral issues that occur in families with obesity, while the children will be working with pediatric residents and physical therapists for fun ideas on how to exercise in a recreational way. By involving the whole family, she says the goal is changing everyone’s attitudes, lifestyles and bad habits.
McConkey says the program has another aspect that’s unusual in that an in-home behavioral health expert will visit the families’ homes three times during the 12 weeks to work with the families on implementing what they have been learning in the classes. She says obesity numbers continue to grow in children that are increasingly younger — which is why this program targets kids as young as six.
McConkey says: "A lot of children have become a lot more sedentary so we get concerned when kids are spending more time sitting and watching television or sitting and playing computer games versus getting out and playing and being active." She says the other problem is that some families don’t take the time to cook healthy and find it a challenge to schedule exercise into their busy lifestyles. The number of overweight and obese children in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Studies find some 15-percent of kids between ages six and 11 are overweight or obese.