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Highlighting innovative "outside the box" ideas, programs, research and products addressing the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Stop the Insanity! One Year Later And Nothing Has Really Changed

In its fourth report on obesity in the United States, the Trust for America's Health finds that the obesity epidemic continues unabated and calls for a comprehensive approach to help individuals make healthy choices - Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.

Unfortunately this report (F as in FAT) does not come as a surprise to me and my partners - and the saddest thing about this report is that the findings are so very predictable. There ARE programs that can make a long term sustainable difference in the fight against obesity, but FAR TOO MANY organizations would prefer to continue throwing unimaginable dollars at researching the cause and effect of obesity, rather than steer those dollars into developing innovative and effective solutions. I wrote about this issue in my very first blog (Childhood Obesity - Who's Going To Step Up To The Plate?) and the Trust for America's Health only proves what we've been saying for some time now. Many of the organizations and individuals who have the funds to make a difference are not willing to take risks on innovative and potentially groundbreaking ideas. It's a lot easier (and safer) to continue to research the cause and effect of obesity than to actually take risks on programs and ideas that could/would have a positive and sustainable impact on the problem. That kind of strategy would require these organizations to step way outside their comfort zone and live for a while on the edge - the incubator of great innovation! Until that happens, you might as well change the date on this year's report and reprint it again next year - nothing will have changed other than the amount of funds contributed to researching what we already know - that obesity is a real health threat, it's getting worse, and it needs to be stopped.

But wait! There is hope. I am convinced that those of us willing to go it alone and live on the edge everyday will play a significant role in the solution to the obesity epidemic. We are the innovators, the risk takers, the visionaries committed to making a real and sustainable difference in the lives of those who need it. Personally, my partners and I have have much invested in the success or failure of our creation (Get Fit FOCUS) and we are committed and motivated to build the most effective and sustainable program possible. Perhaps with a little luck, one or more of these organizations will find their way to join us somewhere near the edge. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I won't be holding my breath. Let's hope I won't have to keep my fingers crossed too long.

In good health,

Phil Christian
LifeStyle Media Group

Monday, August 20, 2007

Early Intervention Is Key To Addressing Childhood Obesity

Just last week another study was published confirming and supporting the mission upon which we are building our Get Fit FOCUS program - that early intervention is the key to addressing the growing childhood obesity epidemic. A few weeks ago I posted a preview of our Get Fit FOCUS program and talked about the critical importance of empowering young people (using mediums relevant to their lifestyles) with the knowledge and tools to independently make positive and healthy lifestyle choices. Our program was already founded on hard science, but just last week a group of Finnish researchers published a study that further supports the importance of what we are building and the impact it could have on curbing the incidence of childhood obesity and related diseases.

According to a study which was published in the online edition of the journal Circulation, children who were taught healthy eating habits at an early age maintained their healthy habits well into adolescence. The researchers followed 1,062 children from ages 7 months to 14 years with an intervention group consisting of 540 children (and their families) and a control group of 522. The intervention group was provided with education and counseling to help them prepare and consume a healthier diet, while the control group was given no assistance whatsoever. Not surprisingly, the intervention group at the age of 14 was healthier than the control group - especially the boys. In an Associated Press article reporting the findings of the study done at the University of Turku in Finland, Dr. Harri Niinikoski was quoted as saying "We think that this lifestyle change can be started early." That sentiment is support by several other professionals throughout the article.

That's why we have created Get Fit FOCUS - an innovative and revolutionary health education experience for elementary and middle school students, their educators and families. Using highly interactive and content rich features built on web 2.0 technology, Get Fit FOCUS is a fluid, highly collaborative and participatory educational program designed to empower young people with the tools and resources needed to make good healthy lifestyle choices at a very early age. Using mediums relevant to the lifestyles of young people (social networking, collaboration, sharing, wikis, blogging, lifestyle coaches, and numerous other web 2.0 tools) Get Fit FOCUS creates a powerful and relevant learning environment for students and teachers. It also allows students and teachers to share their learning experience with family members, friends and other classrooms throughout the US and the world. We're making some serious progress with our development site and plan to beta test Get Fit FOCUS in several school districts this fall (with an anticipated full market release in the Spring of 2008). It will truly revolutionize the way health education is taught (and shared) in schools throughout the country! As promised, I'll keep you updated on the ongoing development of this very exciting early intervention tool!

In good health,

Phil Christian
LifeStyle Media Group

Friday, August 17, 2007

An Amazing Discovery or Common Sense Marketing?

This week Discovery Kids Network announced that it will no longer license its name and characters to companies promoting unhealthy foods. This comes on the heels of a recent announcement by Kellogg's to stop advertising unhealthy products to kids altogether, and the Public Service Campaign snafu by the US Department of Health and Human Services. In case you missed it, officials at the US Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Ad Council and DreamWorks Animation, featured the Shrek character in several Public Service Announcements while the character was also used to promote numerous fast foods, sugary cereals, cookies and candy - products frequently associated with childhood obesity. Oops! Read about the controversy here.

However, it may very well be this incident that has prompted the Discovery Kids Network to publicly announce their decision to restrict the licensing of their characters. It’s a smart business decision based on solid common sense by those in charge. That’s not to say I’m against companies using the images of animated characters and role models to promote products (I’ve written about this before), but I do believe that doing so must be in total harmony with your company's core values. In this case, Discovery Kids is all about expanding the knowledge of young people at an age when they can be easily influenced. So, controlling the potentially negative influences one of their characters could have by being associated with an unhealthy product – is absolutely the right (and smart) thing to do. Kudos to Discovery Kids and their parent company Discovery Communications for using good common sense (and smart marketing) in determining how their characters can be licensed in the future. Now we just need the other kid network companies to follow the lead of Discovery Kids!

UPDATE (August 24, 2007): Nickelodeon has followed Discovery Kid's lead and announced new licensing guidelines for their characters. You can read about it here.

In good health,

Phil Christian

LifeStyle Media Group

Monday, August 13, 2007

School Absenteeism Higher For Obese Kids

According to a study just released, obese students have a higher absenteeism rate than their slimmer classmates
- which researchers contend can lead to a plethora of additional problems as they get older. Of the 1,069 fourth through sixth grade students that participated in the research program, obese children missed approximately 20% more school than their normal weight peers. The study was conducted by Andrew B. Geier, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. "At this early age to show that already they're missing school, and missing school is such a major setup for big-time problems, that's something school policy people have to know," Geier said.

Researchers believe weight problems at this age are more of a psychological/esteem issue than a health issue. "At this young age, children are not necessarily experiencing the health problems that will likely confront them later in life unless serious intervention takes place," said Geier. "However, they are missing school at a greater rate than their peers, setting themselves up for the negative fallout that accompanies absenteeism. What's keeping them from school, more than heath issues, is the stigma and the bullying that accompanies being overweight. Future research should explore this additional, very damaging side effect of being overweight." Geier suggests these side effects could include poor grades, becoming unhealthy and developing obesity related diseases, not finishing school and even engaging in risky behavior that could lead to pregnancy, AIDS and other STD's.

To learn more about this study, click here.

In good health,

Phil Christian
LifeStyle Media Group

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