August 28, 2009

Program takes community approach to reduce obesity in children

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Inara Abernathy, 9, learns a new yoga pose from instructor Jennifer Craze as part of the Tennessee Kids Overcoming program. (photo by Eric Seguin)

Program takes community approach to reduce obesity in children

Tennessee Kids Overcoming (TKO), a community-based pilot program aimed at reducing obesity and improving overall health, recently wrapped up its first summer session at Middle Tennessee State University.

The program is a collaboration between the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Lipscomb University, MTSU and the Vanderbilt Dayani Center for Health & Wellness.

Children ages 7-17 are eligible to enroll in TKO if they are overweight or obese and are at risk for conditions associated with obesity and their families.

“The program was developed in response to the increasing number of overweight and obese children in America,” said Eric Seguin, TKO program director.

“The reality is that what we see each week in the Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Weight Management Clinic is overwhelming. With the support of the Pediatric Weight Management Clinic, we started a community-based intervention that meets the needs of those families with additional opportunity for education and physical activity.”

Kimi Abernathy’s 9-year-old daughter, Inara, recently completed MTSU’s summer TKO program.

“She loved it,” Kimi said. “She was really raring to go, and she tried things she would not have normally tried.”

Inara and the seven other participants in the six-week summer program played soccer, climbed a rock wall, went swimming, completed a ropes course, practiced yoga and other activities. In addition to physical activity, participants learned to read food labels, and attended cooking classes and other educational sessions. Parents were encouraged to attend all of the educational sessions.

“She had a really positive experience,” Abernathy said. “We would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Gregory Plemmons, M.D., assistant professor of General Pediatrics and medical director for TKO, said there aren’t many affordable weight management programs for families. TKO is different because health professionals on staff are able to work with each university to identify graduate and undergraduate students in Exercise Physiology and the Dietetic Internship programs for assistance.

Many of his patients in the Weight Management Clinic have enrolled in TKO.

“This program is good because all the kids are fighting the same battle,” Plemmons said.

The program also runs in the fall and spring at Lipscomb University and MTSU. The fall semester will begin in September and run through December. Those interested should call Seguin at 397-8393 or e-mail him at For more information, go here.