October 20, 2006

Results in from healthy lifestyle pilot

Featured Image

Students at Oliver Middle School run laps during the first Live It! Go for the Red, White and Blue program earlier this year.
Photo by Dana Johnson

Results in from healthy lifestyle pilot

Results of the first “Live It! Go for the Red, White and Blue” healthy lifestyle program show that Nashville school children may be at higher risk than others in the nation.

Launched last spring by the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, the eight-week pilot program involved 12 Nashville schools — mostly middle schools — and enrolled 2,550 children ages 10 to 12.

This week, program researchers said the results of the initial program showed that 50 percent of the children measured in the study were above the 84th percentile for body mass index (BMI), putting them in the “at risk for overweight/obesity” or the “overweight/obese” categories.

The national average is 33 percent who are either overweight or at risk for becoming overweight.

“I was surprised that it was that much higher than the national population for children,” said Tom Cook, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor of Nursing and lead researcher for Children's Hospital's School-based Community Outreach Programs.

Vanderbilt nursing students, athletic trainers, nutritionists and Children's Hospital support staff teamed with staff and teachers from Metro Nashville Public Schools earlier this year for the eight-week intervention to teach children about healthier lifestyles.

The middle school children were measured for waist circumference, height and weight at the start of the program, and then were asked to keep track of their activity and nutrition.

The children were re-measured after the program ended and Cook said the results show some positive signs among the children who were most active.

“The kids who lost waist size of at least one-half inch gained only half the weight of their peers who did not lose waist circumference,” said Cook.

Armed with this data, the manager of this year's version of the program, registered dietitian Dianne Killebrew, said they are ready to refine the Live it! Go for the Red, White and Blue program with a more targeted approach.

The program launches again in January.

“We want to increase participation this year, so we are selecting five schools to find out what will drive that,” Killebrew said.

Tina Bozeman, Ph.D., Metro Nashville Public Schools Wellness Coordinator, has promised participation from Donelson, Croft, Bellevue and Wright middle schools. Battle Ground Academy in Franklin will participate as well.

“We are stepping back and looking at how the program is packaged, and we will be looking at key ways to increase participation,” Killebrew said. “We'll also be finding ways to incorporate our messages into the regular school day.

“For example, you might find the math class calculating steps taken in a week, or percentage improvement, or in English class they might do some journaling about the changes they are being asked to make in their lifestyle.

“We narrowed our message, honed it, and we hope to make a lasting impact on the lives of some of these children.”