Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Middlesex YMCA Addressing Youth Obesity

The significant increase in youth obesity and the resulting health crisis that many of our young people face requires intervention and action. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that in 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. This statistic is alarming but what is most sobering is the impact that obesity has on the quality of life of these individuals and the short and long term cost to society. It is a societal imperative that we reverse the trend and help young people gain back a healthy lifestyle.

The YMCA is for healthy living and we are committed to teaching our youth that an active lifestyle is attainable and enjoyable. Our message is that it is fun to be fit, to play hard, to run and jump and move your body. In 2006 the YMCA Kids’ Korner after school programs introduced the CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) curriculum in our eleven after school programs. This wellness curriculum is comprised of physical fitness games, activities and nutritional resources. Y staff facilitates a daily active game and integrates the nutrition materials into cooking clubs, group discussion and science clubs. Parent survey results indicate that 75% of children have shown an improvement in their fitness level as a result of this program. Feedback from staff, families and children proves that the program is encouraging active lifestyles and making a real difference in the activity level of children.

In September 2011 the YMCA was awarded a grant from the Aetna Foundation to expand the reach and scope of the CATCH program. As a result, the YMCA now facilitates CATCH activities three days a week at five elementary schools in Middletown (Macdonough, Bielefield, Wesley, Farm Hill and Snow). The activities are popular amongst the children and Y staff provides incentives for participation. Currently close to 500 children are participating in CATCH activities at these schools and the number of participants is increasing weekly.

The YMCA is encouraging inactive children to embrace a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise. It is important that children see positive role models making healthy choices. Families need to exercise together. Go for walks, ride bikes, swim at the Y, ice skate or roller skate. If you can’t get outside then at least turn off the TV and turn on an active video game. The following links are resources for families.