Obese and overweight children are at an elevated risk for developing a variety of health issues both in the immediate future and long-term – cardiovascular disease, depression, prediabetes, asthma, many types of cancer, and the list goes on and on. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this epidemic has seen childhood obesity rates double in children and quadruple in adolescents in the past 30 years.
In the Roanoke Valley, one team – made up of 35 local organizations – has made tackling childhood obesity its mission and they continue to look for ways to make a difference in our community.
“The Positive Action Toward Health (PATH) Community Coalition, led by Carilion Clinic, aims to locally reverse the trend we are seeing nationally, which is climbing obesity rates in children,” said Cheri Hartman, PATH director. “Our efforts focus on increasing access to healthy foods and providing opportunities to incorporate physical activity into daily living.”
The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth recently awarded Carilion Clinic with a two-year grant totaling $60,700 to support the efforts of PATH in changing behavior using evidence-based practices including school and community gardens, educational opportunities on food preparation and nutrition, and advocating for walk/ bike-friendly neighborhood and park improvements.
“PATH focuses its initiatives on communities where incomes are lower and that have been identified as food deserts, due to a lack of access to grocery stores or other markets where fresh healthy foods are sold,” explained Hartman. “Such needy locations are likely to be afflicted with high rates of childhood obesity and need the extra support and encouragement.”
With the grant funds, PATH’s action plan for the next two years includes improving transportation to farmers’ markets, funding pedometers for community members, hosting community events and public awareness campaigns, planting new school gardens, among other efforts.
Concluded Hartman, “Our ultimate goal is to reduce childhood obesity in our area by one percent each year during the grant project period ending June 30, 2016.”
About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth:
Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) leads statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use and childhood obesity. Since VFHY began its work in 2001, high school smoking in Virginia has been cut by more than 60 percent.
The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth directly reaches about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, daycares and other youth centers across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaign delivers prevention messages to more than 500,000 children annually through TV and radio ads and Internet content. For more information, visit www.vfhy.org.