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Healthy House

Catawba Valley Medical Center’s Healthy House, a facility dedicated to both preventing and treating childhood obesity, is teaching at-risk children across Catawba County to make healthy choices. The Healthy House’s prevention initiative, the Wellness FAN (Fitness, Awareness, & Nutrition) program, seeks to make a sustainable difference. It provides education, activities and resources that can lead to the prevention of obesity in high-risk children. The modules engage the students in observational learning and participatory behavior consistent with the “show, don’t tell” approach that has proven superior to traditional methods of learning. For example, in one module the children pretend to go on a picnic and get the opportunity to make choices among various food items. If it is a healthy choice (“everyday food”), they place the item in the picnic basket; if it is an unhealthy item (“sometimes food”), they place it in the trash can.

“Our objectives were based on North Carolina’s Obesity Prevention Plan 2007-2012. Specific objectives were to increase the number of Head Start children at a healthy weight, increase the number of children who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, decrease fast food consumption, and decrease sweetened beverage consumption. In addition, we had objectives of decreasing sedentary activities such as screen time, and increasing physical fitness, specifically endurance and flexibility.

We are happy to report that we observed an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption, a decrease in screen time, and an increase in endurance. By the end of the second year, we had also observed a decrease in BMI and an increase in flexibility. Fast food consumption and sweetened beverage consumption still remain significant challenges. We speculate that this might be due to a combination of learned and well-practiced behaviors that are highly resistant to change and reinforced by messaging from media sources such as TV commercials. Much work remains to be done by all of us from the individual to the community and to the policy level.”

—Vondell Clark, Medical Director, Healthy House

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