Residents lead kids in exercise and reinforce healthy eating.
A new year brings with it renewed commitment to healthy eating and lifestyles. Today, this focus – and its imperatives – extends to children, as well as adults.
Obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Today, more than a third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, increasing their likelihood of suffering the consequences of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer. Once considered diseases of adulthood, hypertension and type 2 diabetes are now increasingly common in the young – chief byproducts of unhealthy diets and living. Studies show that 20 to 47 percent of overweight and obese children have elevated blood pressure.
In 2015, pediatric residents at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the University of Maryland and Sinai Hospital sought an opportunity to help the youngest generation of Baltimore City residents avoid such futures. Investigating multiple city programs, they chose to work with children, ages 4 to 12, whose mothers take part in an exercise and wellness program – B’more Fit for Healthy Babies – at the YMCA in the Druid Heights area of Baltimore.
Children in this new healthy living program prepare and try new foods and take part in indoor exercise programs and games to promote healthy eating and wellness. Residents measure children’s heights and weights when they join the program, to see where each plots on growth charts, and give them pictorial quizzes on choosing healthy foods. In tracking children’s growth and knowledge of healthy behaviors over time, the residents hope to create a behavioral and educational program that can be replicated across the country.
“We are studying the program to see what’s effective and what the kids enjoy and are most likely to practice when they go home,” says Christina Peroutka, one of the Johns Hopkins pediatric residents who helped create B’more Fit’s children’s program. “As a group, we are invested in our community and its families, as well as in discovering the most effective means of preventing childhood illness and future ill health. We hope to develop a model of intervention and conversation that might translate in a pediatrician’s office, as well.”
Recognizing parents’ powerful role in their children’s health and well-being, the residents involve them in their children’s education. “They learn new ways to prepare healthy foods and fun ways to exercise in the home with the children, if outdoor play or a gym are not viable options where they live,” says Peroutka. “Overall, we want to make the experience fun and encouraging.”
Johns Hopkins Children's Nutrition Center: Provides nutrition counseling for overweight and obese children.
Weigh Smart® at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, a Johns Hopkins affiliate – A “no-fault,” family-based group therapy approach to healthy living. During two-hour evening sessions over 10 weeks, small groups of overweight children and their families first meet with a nutritionist to talk about what they eat – and how much – and learn how to choose healthier foods and smaller portions. The therapy session is paired with 60 minutes of group exercise in the hospital’s gym.
Hypertension Obesity Clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center– A multidisciplinary clinic to address the multiple medical needs of children with hypertension, obesity and related issues.
Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center – This division provides the highest quality medical care and state-of-the-art techniques in the evaluation and treatment of gastrointestinal, liver, and nutritional disorders.