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Effort to prevent childhood obesity hits halfway point

Oct. 31, 2013, 8:49 AM

A joint effort between Vanderbilt and Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation to prevent childhood obesity and enhance literacy promotion for preschoolers has reached an important milestone — the halfway mark.

Yesenia Mota and daughter, Ariana Nataly, 5, are participants in a collaborative effort between Vanderbilt and Metro Nashville to help families lead more active, healthy lives. (photo by Daniel Dubois)

The project, entitled “Growing Right Onto Wellness (GROW): Changing Early Body Mass Index (BMI) Trajectories,” recently enrolled its 300th family. The ultimate goal is to recruit 600 area families for the trial, which is supported by a $12 million, seven-year grant awarded in 2010 by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Recruitment efforts center on registering families with children at the highest risk for obesity who live in northeast and south Nashville. Parent-preschooler pairs, or “dyads,” are enrolled to participate at either the east Nashville or the Coleman Recreation Centers. Each family will be enrolled for a three-year period.

The family-based program uses community recreation centers and the local libraries as existing “built environments” to support early childhood healthy growth and development.

“Through the GROW trial we think about families together in the context of their communities to maximize early childhood growth and development,” said Shari Barkin M.D., principal investigator and director of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The GROW trial is the largest project of the Nashville Collaborative, the five-year-old partnership between Children’s Hospital and Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation to measurably improve child health through family-centered, community-based programs. This partnership was selected for a special achievement award from the Tennessee AAP in 2011 for its contributions to childhood health.

Both Latino and African-American children are about twice as likely to be obese by age 5 as are Caucasian children. The GROW trial has been designed for preschoolers because evidence shows growth trajectories are set early in life, so early prevention shows the greatest promise of improving health not only in childhood, but into adulthood. An overweight and/or obese child at age 8 is five times more likely to stay that way as an adolescent and, very likely, continue to be overweight/obese as an adult.

Eligible participant pairs for the GROW trial must meet the following criteria:

• A Spanish- or English-speaking parent with one 3-to-5-year-old child who can participate over a three-year period;

• The family should live within a five-mile radius of Metro Nashville’s East Park Community Center or Coleman Park Community Center;

• The child should have a body mass index (BMI) that is greater than the 50th but less than 95th percentile among peers in their age group; and

• The family should receive assistance from at least one government program, such as WIC or TennCare.

For more information on registering for the GROW trial, call 343-6441.

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