Newton Partnership launches campaign to fight child obesity

COVINGTON -- A national movement to get children moving and eating healthy and decrease childhood obesity now has a local champion.

Newton County Community Partnership has launched WE CAN! or Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition, a new program from the National Institute of Health that addresses the growing obesity epidemic among youth ages 8 to 13.

The goal of WE CAN! is to reach parents and caregivers with educational materials and activities, including a six-lesson course, a parent website at http://wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov, a handbook and several community projects and events that are planned for the near future.

All of this is meant to encourage parents to increase availability of healthy foods and limit accessibility of sweetened beverages and high fat, energy dense foods that are low in nutrients and encourage family physical activity.

A youth program will encourage kids to choose adequate fruits and vegetables per day, enjoy small portions at meals, decrease consumption of unhealthy foods, substitute water or milk for sweetened beverages, engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most days and reduce sedentary activity.

"This issue is so important to our community since outside of organized sports teams, there are few physical outlets for children in our community," said Laura Bertram, executive director of Newton Partnership. "Newton Partnership welcomes community partners that would like to join us in spreading this information and taking on this important effort. We also invite local groups that would like to offer this great program to adults and/or kids in their organization. The educational segments are brief, fun and can incorporate snacks and games."

Newton Partnership is also launching a fund raising campaign to install a Frisbee golf course at Denny Dobbs Park to provide another option for outdoor activity in the community. The course was originally part of the plan for the park but was eliminated due to lack of funding.

Newton Partnership has long been concerned with children's nutrition, partnering with General Mills since 2002 to provide healthy snacks at child care facilities and afterschool and juvenile court programs. The organization has also partnered with schools to encourage fitness by sending ideas about family fitness activities and healthy snacks home with children.

The hope is to stress to parents that, "You are the one that provides healthy foods and then allow children to choose between those healthy foods ... When someone says, 'My child only eats cheese doodles,' well, who is buying the cheese doodles?" Bertram said.

Kids may rebel at healthy choices at first, by eating only one food for a few days, for example, but eventually, they will start eating a better variety, Bertram said.

For more information on We Can! or the Frisbee golf course, call 770-786-0807.