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Vanderbilt School of Nursing‘s School Health Clinic helping school children fight obesity

Feb. 15, 2005, 8:01 AM

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

– Childhood obesity in
Tennessee

is a growing concern. Research shows about 10 percent of children ages 2-5 and 15 percent of children ages 6-19 are obese, and the percentages have more than doubled in the last two decades. Experts at Vanderbilt say
Tennessee

‘s numbers match those national statistics.

Patti Scott, who has a master of science in Nursing, has been the nurse practitioner in the Vanderbilt School of Nursing‘s Jane McEvoy School-Based Health Center at

Fall-Hamilton
Elementary School

for 10 years and has seen the problem first-hand. That‘s why she decided to start recording the body mass index or BMI of every student in the school. “Last year‘s numbers show 22 percent of the children were already overweight. Ten percent were at risk for becoming overweight, and 62 percent were normal weights for age and gender,” said Scott. “We do indeed have a serious problem here, and we look pretty much like the rest of

Tennessee

.”

Sandra Moorman, principal at

Fall
Hamilton
Elementary School

, said the school is committed to working with Scott and parents to help the children become healthier and turn things around. “Supporting students to lead physically active lifestyles and do at least 45 minutes of physical activity daily helps them grow up to become active, healthy adults,” said Moorman.

Community Health students at the Vanderbilt School of Nursing,
Theresa Hook
, a registered nurse at Fall Hamilton, and a Vanderbilt Ingram Scholar are working with Scott to collect this year‘s BMI figures for each student at the school during P.E. classes at Fall Hamilton. They calculate the BMI using height and weight measurements. Scott hopes their work will help teach children ways to fight obesity and maintain a healthier lifestyle. “We send home the results to parents and make recommendations based on those results. We suggest they make an appointment to see their primary care provider, get involved in a program to focus on fitness, and send home a booklet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helping explain ways to work on the problem as a family,” said Scott. Hook and Vanderbilt nursing students also teach the American Heart Association‘s “Heart Power” program in every class in the school.

Tom Cook, Ph.D., R.N., professor of Nursing and Director of School Health at Vanderbilt Children‘s Hospital, is known for his work to target obesity in school children. He said Scott‘s work at Fall Hamilton is crucial. “It is so important to help parents have some sort of objective measure of whether their child is overweight,” said Cook. “Of course parents see their child, but they don‘t necessarily know what constitutes being overweight. Many parents think unless a child is being picked on they don‘t have a problem, or they will grow out of a weight problem.” But Cook says children who are heavy during early childhood, between the ages of 5 to 7, and during pre-teen years tend to keep their weight into adulthood. “The overweight child becomes the overweight adult.”

Senator Raymond Finney, from the eighth district in

Tennessee

, and also a physician, strongly supports Scott‘s work and the example the Vanderbilt School of Nursing is setting in partnership with Fall Hamilton. He has proposed legislation which would require school children in the state of

Tennessee

to have their BMI measured, with parental consent, and a health report card of sorts would be given to parents. “The health report card would be sent home by mail and include interpretations about the child‘s BMI, offer interventions, and would presumably try to mention the kinds of health problems that are a result of prolonged obesity,” said Finney. “I commend Vanderbilt‘s efforts and look forward to seeing some of these results. I think it‘s a worthwhile effort and service to our public schools and this ties into what we‘re trying to do on the state level.”

Scott said she hopes recording the BMI of each child, following up with their parents at home, and offering the school-based educational programs will increase community awareness that this is a significant problem for children in

Tennessee

, and more work is needed at school and at home. “The primary key is that we hope to promote healthy lifestyles to all children and families, not just those who are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight,” Scott said.


-VUSN-

Contact: Heather L. Hall

Phone: (615) 322-3894

Email: heather.l.hall@vanderbilt.edu

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