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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

NARH Pilot Program Seeks Families

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, August 15, 2005

North Adams – Don’t call it a “diet.”

Youth weight issues are the focus of a North Adams Regional Hospital pilot program titled “Create Your Weight” and area families are being recruited for the initiative, said Rich Flores, a registered dietician at the hospital.

Flores is seeking 10 to 15 children aged between 7 and 12 years old and their families for the 11-session, 45-minute-per-meeting weekly program.

Seeking Families

“We’re looking for kids who have a weight issue that concerns the pediatricians, the child, or the family,” Flores said. “We’re going to be talking about food choices, and we’ll talk about ways to make healthy foods more palatable. We’re going to talk about eating healthier without knowing that you are eating healthier. And we’ll be talking about ways to be more active as a family but not have to spend a lot of money at the gym.”

The hospital was one of eight hospitals from around the country selected to participate in the pilot program developed by Sodexho USA, a food and facilities management firm that provides food and nutrition services at NARH, according to information provided by Paul Hopkins, public relations director for the hospital.

The program is scheduled for a September kick-off and Flores said that interested individuals may contact him directly or may acquire a referral from a pediatrician. Flores said that he will make decisions about which families are chosen for participation, but emphasized that he believes subsequent “Create Your Weight” programs will be scheduled in the future.

Costs and Benefits

The cost of program inclusion has not been decided, Flores said.

“There may be a charge of $50 to $100 per family,” he said.

Flores acknowledged that the cost may be prohibitive to families that could benefit from the project. Sodexho has issued a guideline that allows participating facilities to set their own participation fee, Flores said.

“We will be looking at scholarships [for the program],” he said, and added that possible scholarship funding sources are being investigated. “We are also looking to see what other [participating] places are going to charge. We do want to make this as affordable as we can.”

A host of resources will be made available to program participants, including some software and other items, Flores said.

“[Participants] will have all the tools they need to do this,” he said.

Effort and Commitment

An individual, preliminary meeting between Flores and the selected families will occur prior to the program start; all subsequent sessions will be “group meetings,” he said. Families interested in the initiative should be willing to commit themselves to the program’s strategies and be willing to adopt recommended food changes, he said.

“You do have to have the family participation,” he said. “An eight-year-old doesn’t have much choice about the foods that are brought into the house.”

Issues that could be tackled as part of the initiative include the eating habits of families with a mix of children, meaning some children with weight issues and some that are not troubled by extra pounds. Flores said that he will also talk about how to select healthier foods within a budget, and will offer food preparation tips. For example, black beans are considered a healthy, economical food choice, and many people discover that black bean tacos are tasty, Flores said.

“You do have to look at specific situations,” Flores said. “[Families] have to have requirements for time spent outside playing instead of at the computer. Instead of having cookies everyday, sometimes it’s best not to have cookies in the house. Don’t single out a heavier child; offer apples as a snack for everyone and offer cookies as a treat once a week. It’s not about eliminating foods, or depriving foods, it’s about setting limits.”

The sessions will allow families to review what strategies may be working and those that are not achieving a desired result.

“That’s the nice thing,” he said. “We can recommend something the first week and then say at the second week ‘OK, how did that work?’ This is not the kind of thing where we tell people that they have to eat tofu. The first thing I say in my classes [existing nutrition classes] is ‘if you are hungry, we’re not doing something right.’”

Flores said that he is considering adding a 15-minute exercise component to the program. Physical activity is necessary for good health, he said.

“The program as developed is nutrition based,” he said. “I would like to see some exercise included.”

The program has been offered at other healthcare facilities, according to information available at a Sodexho Internet web site. Previous “Create Your Weight” projects have involved adults; according to Sodexho information, the average weight loss was 15 pounds over a nine-week span.

Sodexho has also developed a “Recipe For Success” plan designed to help college freshmen avoid weight gain known as “the freshmen 15.”

Healthy Habits at the Family Table

Youth weight issues have generated headline after headline during recent years and Flores said the overweight youth population has doubled in the past 15 years. Some children are a few pounds overweight, while others are carrying extreme amounts of extra weight. Children with weight issues are often targets of teasing and bullying, and are at much greater risk of weight-related health issues as adults, Flores said.

“We really have to change this or there will be a lot of problems later on,” he said. “At the end of the program, families will know what they can do and how they can eat healthier. They will know how to bring healthy eating habits to families earlier. Anytime we [health professionals] can make people a little healthier, it’s a little better. We just want people to be as healthy as they can.”

Families interested in the youth weight management program may contact Flores by e-mail at rflores@nbhealth.org or by calling 413-664-5266.

Sodexho USA is part of Sodexho Inc., the North American subsidiary of the Sodexho Alliance, which operates in 76 countries, according to web site information. Sodexho Inc. is headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., and directly employs about 120,000 workers. The company also oversees about 60,000 employees of companies whose food and facilities management services are provided by Sodexho. Sodexho Inc. provides services in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Information about Sodexho Inc. is available the www.sodexhousa.com website.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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