MyNorth News Service

(Press Release provided by McLaren Northern Michigan)

PETOSKEY: Michigan has some of the highest obesity rates in the nation, with roughly a third of Michigan children considered overweight or obese. Close to home, the northwest Michigan region is significantly high.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 12.7 million of U.S. children and adolescents aged 2 – 19 are obese. (Obesity is classified as Body Mass Index (BMI) above the 95th percentile.)

Given the high obesity rates within its 22-county service region, McLaren Northern Michigan has made a dedicated commitment to address the issue by offering dietary and wellness programs, diabetes education, fitness classes, and FitKids360, an innovative program for children with a body mass index of 85% or higher.

FitKids360 is a healthy lifestyle program developed to fight childhood obesity. The comprehensive, six-week program combines basic education about nutrition, behavior and exercise with a wide range of physical activities, designed for kids ages 5 – 16 and their family.

“Our goal is to provide an effective solution for overweight children who have been unable to make changes on their own,” explains Tanya Janes, Education Specialist of Health and Wellness Services for McLaren Northern Michigan. “By focusing on the physical, mental, behavioral and nutritional aspects of healthy living, we can help kids and their families enjoy longer, more active, happier, healthier lives.”

Free of charge, the program is led by local health experts who communicate with primary care providers about long-term plans and progress.

Dr. Duarte is cautiously hopeful. “Every small change, every single effort will add up,” he says, “but we must be diligent, because the problem will not fix itself.”

Six-week FitKids360 sessions occur in the fall, winter, and spring with one session schedule to begin this fall. Those interested in participating should contact their primary care provider, school nurse, or McLaren Northern Michigan (800) 248-6777. Related health information and wellness program details can be found at

A Glimmer of Hope: Through education and awareness initiatives, obesity rates among preschool-aged children (under age 5) are decreasing. However, CDC data shows that 1 in 8 preschoolers in the United States are still categorized as obese.

Still Reason for Action: CDC reports that the obesity percentage among United States children aged 6 – 11 increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12 – 19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.

Obesity rates are high within certain racial and ethnic groups and those most commonly found in lower socioeconomic groups.

“Unfortunately, low income children are the ones most likely to derive their calories from processed foods, which are relatively inexpensive, yet high in fatty meats, unhealthy carbohydrates, excess sodium, and refined sugars,” says Betsy Pollock-Tiedeck, RN, CDE, Certified Diabetes Educator and Registered Dietitian at McLaren Northern Michigan. “And, these children are also the least likely to have adequate daily exercise.”

Obesity is a serious condition, and children won’t “grow out of it,” explains Pediatric Physician Claudio Duarte, MD, of Alcona Health Center at McLaren Northern Michigan-Cheboygan Campus. On the contrary, obesity sets the stage for a lifetime of accumulating health problems.

“Without proactive early childhood interventions and incorporation of long-term healthy lifestyle habits, obese children are much more likely to stay obese right into adulthood,” Dr. Duarte says. “The associated health risks are enormous: stroke, chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers are much more prevalent.”

FitKids360 is funded by generous donors through the McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation.

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