PHIT Kids Win National Honor for Unique Approach, Success

Kansas City, MO – Kids lose weight. Their overall health improves. Parents learn how to prepare healthy foods. Lifestyle changes are made.

This is PHIT Kids, a Children’s Mercy weight management program that sounds almost too good to be true. And if you toss in a high level of satisfaction – kids and adults like the program – it suggests the positive changes will stick after families leave the program and there is hope in the battle against childhood obesity.

For its early successes, and for paying close attention to the diverse cultural and economic needs of patients, PHIT Kids is one of three programs honored on March 19 at the National Childhood Obesity Congress in Miami.

The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality is honoring PHIT Kids (Promoting Health in Teens and Kids) with its 2008 National Recognition Award for Health Care Programs Addressing Childhood Obesity. Sarah Hampl, MD, is medical director of the program.

“Our initial research shows that the PHIT Kids program is an effective treatment for obese youth and their families who are motivated to make family-based changes,” says Dr. Hampl. “We are always striving to improve the program and we regularly adjust the program as we learn more about the children, their families and the world they live in.”

One of the things that sets PHIT Kids apart from other, more traditional weight management programs, is its emphasis on socio-economic factors, in addition to the usual focus on nutrition and exercise. Forty percent of the children in the 24-week program are African American and 28 percent are Latino. More than half are on Medicaid or qualify for financial assistance from Children’s Mercy.

The PHIT Kids program offers curriculum and activities on behavioral, physical activity, and nutrition topics that are sensitive to the unique cultural and economic challenges faced by many families. Health educators teach classes in English and Spanish. Educational materials were developed for an ethnically diverse group with special attention paid to beliefs and attitudes regarding weight, body size, cooking styles, and physical activity. PHIT Kids partners with community programs (such as the Cleaver Family YMCA and Whole Foods) so families are exposed to physical activity opportunities and fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition, PHIT Kids is supported by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Blue Cross Blue Shield – Kansas City, Children’s Mercy Family Health Partners and Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics.

Following the 24-week active phase of the program, youth and parents return monthly for up to two years. Follow-up visits include clinic visits and a cooking class sponsored by the Harvesters Community Food Network that focuses on healthy, low-cost foods. The families are also given groceries at the end of the class to assist in healthy meal preparation.

Thus far, children are showing significant decreases in their Body Mass Index trigyceride levels, and sugared beverage consumption, while increasing their HDL (good cholesterol), daily physical activity, and meals eaten at home.

“We are most excited by the results that suggest that we are slowing the path of weight gain because we know the healthy lifestyle changes that children have made will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” says Meredith Dreyer, PhD, pediatric psychologist with the PHIT Kids program.

Kerri Wade, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with the program, said the children and families in the program motivate her.

“What I have learned is the strength of the families’ resilience. I am amazed by our PHIT Kids families,” she says. “So many of them have so many stressors. Their obesity is really a side effect of many other problems, such as poverty. But, even with so many barriers, they keep coming back.”

And that is a prescription for success.

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