April 16, 2009 – A study published in this month’s issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that 1 in 5 four-year olds in the U.S. is overweight. In Boston, one third of high school students are overweight or obese, with Latino and African American students having higher rates than whites.

In an effort to break the cycle of childhood obesity, Children’s has teamed up with Northeastern University and the Boston Red Sox to launch Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures (HKHF). HKHF is a community-based early childhood pilot project aimed at preventing childhood obesity, which has been linked to a host of chronic diseases later in life. The purpose of the program is to engage early child care providers and caregivers to promote healthy eating and increased physical activity among pre-school age children living in the Fenway, Mission Hill, South End, Jamaica Plain and Lower Roxbury communities of Boston.

«Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures is a wonderful example of the impact that partnerships among our city’s colleges and universities, businesses and hospitals can have on the community,» said Mayor Menino. «I am grateful to Northeastern, the Red Sox and Children’s Hospital Boston for their joint commitment to the health and education of the kids and families in our neighborhoods.»

HKHF will be working with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Head Start providers in these Boston neighborhoods to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of healthy eating and increased physical activity among pre-school age children. A series of informational workshop sessions on nutrition and physical activity will be held for ABCD Head Start staff at four pilot sites (Parker Hill/Fenway, Native American Council, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury/Lenox Head Starts), and bi-lingual physical activity and healthy eating education workshops will be offered to the families and caregivers of the children enrolled at those ABCD sites.

«We hope that by supporting this innovative program we can make a difference in reducing obesity rates among Boston youth,» said Children’s CEO James Mandell, MD. «We see the consequences of childhood obesity on a daily basis, with an increased incidence of diabetes and other diseases that can have life-long implications. Starting to educate about healthy habits at this young age goes a long way towards prevention of these serious health issues.»

«Complex problems require collaborative solutions,» said Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun. «We are happy to team up with Children’s Hospital and the Red Sox to address the troubling issue of childhood obesity.»

In order to promote increased physical activity, HKHF has partnered with Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) to hold a series of Open Gym sessions at the Madison Park Community Center. Each Open Gym is a 90-minute semi-structured physical activity opportunity for children ages 3-8 and their caregivers to explore different ways to be active together. The HKHF Open Gym is designed as a fun, active, creative and safe physical activity opportunity that incorporates age-appropriate activities and aims to bring families into Boston’s community spaces. The Open Gym sessions, to be held Saturdays throughout the summer, are free for participants and led by trained student leaders from Northeastern University.

On July 10, select participants from Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures and ABCD providers will be honored during a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park for their participation in the program. Representatives from all three partner institutions will also be on-hand during the ceremony to celebrate the families and ABCD providers for their commitment to the prevention of childhood obesity.

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