YMCA Launches Childhood Obesity Program

The YMCA of Rock River Valley is launching Healthy Weight and Your Child, a pilot program designed to empower children between the ages of 7-13, with the support from their families, to reach a healthy weight and live a healthier lifestyle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation ago. Today, one in six children are obese and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for a number of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and mental health issues. 

“The Y has a long history of advancing the health and well-being of children in the Rock River Valley region, and helping children reach a healthy weight is important now more than ever,” said Gina Karvelis, Healthy Living Director, YMCA of Rock River Valley. “Healthy Weight and Your Child will help children experience improved health outcomes and higher self-esteem, and families will feel empowered to make and support healthier choices.” 

The 25-session program engages the whole family, so together they can understand how the home environment and other factors influence the choices that lead to a healthy weight. Additionally, the program combines three elements - healthy eating, regular physical activity and behavior change. 

Several local physicians are embracing the program and plan to refer their patients including SwedishAmerican, Crusader Community Health and UI Family Health Clinics. 

“As a pediatrician, I have very limited time in the office to counsel about healthy lifestyles,” said Dr. Kendra Hall, a board-certified pediatrician at SwedishAmerican’s Rock Valley Clinic. “I am very excited that there will be a local program available to assist our overweight and obese patients learn ways to change behavior and improve health in regards to diet and exercise. I love that the program involves not only the children, but requires the parents to attend as well. We know that much of what children learn about food and exercise comes from within the home, and so involvement of the entire family is crucial for success.”

Made up of groups of eight to 15 children and an accompanying adult, the program creates a safe, fun, and active environment for children and their families to explore and adopt proven methods to living a healthier lifestyle. Sessions are two hours in length, with the first hour delivered in a classroom setting and the second hour focusing on physical activity.

“Unfortunately, I have seen increased rates of anxiety and depression amongst children who are overweight and obese in my practice,” said Dr. Manika Bhateja, a board-certified pediatrician at Swedish American’s Stateline Clinic. “This is why I am excited about the YMCA’s new program, as it will help many of our families learn about the factors that lead to a healthy weight. It’s important we take action to help our children learn about healthier lifestyles.”

Children eligible for the program must be between the ages of 7 and 13, have a body mass index greater than or equal to the 95th percentile, receive approval from their doctor or a health care provider, and be accompanied by an adult at every session. The program will begin running October 7. A doctor referral is not necessary to enroll in the program, however a physician does need to sign off on the child’s participation.

We are hosting several informational sessions for families:

Monday, 8/26/19 at 6 p.m.
Crusader Community Health Clinic, 1200 West State Street 

Thursday, 8/29/19 at 6 p.m. 
YMCA Log Lodge, 200 Y Boulevard

Monday, 9/9/19 at 6 p.m. 
Crusader Community Health Clinic, 1200 West State Street 

If you are a parent or physician who would like to learn more about the program, please contact Gina Karvelis. 815-489-1261 or gkarvelis@rockriverymca.org.