Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Program promotes healthy lifestyles

Free summer session for kids at risk for obesity

Express Staff Writer

Despite Blaine County's recent ranking as Idaho's healthiest county, obesity remains a problem, and it's increasingly striking children. But health-care workers, partnering with fitness and nutrition advocates, are offering a free program for local children struggling with weight.

St. Luke's Wood River, in partnership with the Wood River YMCA, is looking for kids to participate in an eight-week summer health initiative. YEAH (Youth Engaged in Activities for Health) will evaluate and educate children and teens, as well as their families, who are dealing with obesity. The program is supported by St. Luke's Wood River Foundation.

"Pediatric obesity is on the rise," said Dr. Julie Lyons, with St. Luke's Clinic in Hailey.

The summer program, which begins July 10, aims to keep participants' weight where it is, as well as teach kids and their families about healthy eating habits and getting enough exercise. The program is the third of its kind, which began last summer with a pilot version.

"The kids have really enjoyed it," Lyons said.

The third annual "County Health Rankings," released in April by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, named Blaine County No. 1 in Idaho as having the healthiest residents. Still, the county has an overall obesity rate of 18 percent.

To stem the tide, health and wellness practitioners are teaming up to uncover barriers to healthy living and offer solutions.

Kids in the program will be able to meet with doctors, a physical therapist, a dietitian, fitness coach, nurses and a social worker who will identify any issues at home that prevent kids from getting proper nutrition.

"It's been a great partnership," Lyons said.

Orientation will be four hours: two hours on Monday and two on Wednesday. Then, participants will meet for one hour on Mondays and two hours on Wednesdays during the session.

Activities include nutrition education, behavior modification exercise, fitness and pre and post assessments. Kids will be separated into groups for ages 6-11 and 12-16.

"We try to make it fun and engaging," Lyons said. "We strongly encourage the whole family to come and participate."

During the program, participants receive a free YMCA membership and a free bus pass to get to the Ketchum facility.

The program is available to children with a body-mass index—the ratio of height to weight—in the 85th percentile or greater. A high BMI is a common predictor of obesity, Lyons said.

English- and Spanish-speaking participants are welcome. Interpreters will be on hand during the sessions.

For information or to enroll, call 727-8733.

Rebecca Meany:

Sign up

For questions about the St. Luke's YEAH program or to enroll, call the Center for Community Health at 727-8733. The program is for English- or Spanish-speaking kids and their families.

What is childhood obesity?

To learn about childhood obesity, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at

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