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St. Luke Community Healthcare Logo

107 6th Ave SW, Ronan, MT 59864

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Childhood Obesity: Tackling A Heavy Problem

June 25, 2018

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Obesity has serious consequences on the nation’s health and economy. It is linked to a number of long-term diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers, according to National Institute of Health Clinical Guidelines. Unhealthy lifestyles have soared the medical cost to an estimated $147 billion and rising. Many communities are looking for ways to increase health education and physical activity for youth to make for a better future, according to Dr. Heather Jones of St. Luke Community Healthcare.

“The overall obesity rate in Montana youth is 29 percent, which is over 22,000 children,” Jones said. “We are just below the national average, which is 31.3 percent.”

St. Luke is working in conjunction with the University of Montana and Western Montana Family Medicine Residency to tackle childhood obesity in Lake County. The program is called Team Training for Transformation and is funded through a five-year Health Resources and Services Administration grant.
The program is two-fold.

“One will be identifying children between the ages 6 and 17 within our patient population, and by involving their parents we can educate and hopefully prevent or even change lifestyles,” Jones said. “The second part is involving the community. We recently just used some of the grant money to help support the Ronan Community Garden.”

This green haven will be used as a place for community members to grow their own crops and where K. William Harvey students can learn about healthier food options. “There are a couple goals for the garden. One is to connect kids to healthy foods and help them understand where their food comes from,” FoodCorp Service Member Laura Arvidson said.

“Our other goal is to create an outdoor classroom so we can have hands-on experience. This will help the kids grasp the concept.” The veggie patch is just one aspect of Team Training for Transformation.

“Internally, we are looking at indicators that a family might have a problem with their weight as they grow older,” Quality Improvement Coordinator Katrina Stowbridge said. “We are in the works of getting activity trackers, aka Fitbits – health monitors that will track a families’ activity level.” Team Training for Transformation will identify children with a weight problem by measuring their Body Mass Index.

“The science behind that is we will retrieve their weight and height and measure their BMI,” Stowbridge said. “We then use a percentile measurement and depending on what percent that individual falls into, we can indicate what we can do to help.”

A child does not need to be overweight to learn the basics of maintaining a healthy body, according to Jones. Parents can help by just being a healthy example. “Sitting down at a family dinner and talking about the meal and what was involved in preparation is one small thing parents can do with their kids,” Jones said. “Also going for walks and taking kids swimming … all of these things promote a healthy lifestyle. If kids see the adults around them doing these things, they will most likely follow.”

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