Overview of the Healthy Weight, Nutrition and Fitness Initiative
Childhood overweight and obesity is a major concern, with epidemic numbers of children struggling to achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle. Approximately 30% of middle school children in Rhode Island (RI) watch 3 or more hours of TV on a daily basis and an additional 39% spend 3 or more hours using the computer or watching videos. This is coupled with the fact that 38% of children in RI participate in physical activity less than 3 days of the week. Particularly concerning is the fact that children who are at greatest risk for inactivity and unhealthy eating habits are from minority and underprivileged backgrounds. The “blueprint” for a healthy lifestyle, including optimal diet and physical activity, is established in utero and further developed through infancy and childhood. A key to maintaining and improving the health of children in RI is identifying and intervening with mothers, maternal-child dyads, and families over the course of development. The overarching goals of this initiative are to improve dietary intake and physical activity to prevent the onset of obesity and excess weight gain in high risk populations and to develop interventions for children already struggling with obesity.