Connecticut Children’s Launches Childhood Obesity Reduction Initiative Promoting Optimal Nutrition and Physical Activity from Birth
Monica Buchanan, Director of Media and Community Relations
Debra Dudack, Communications Specialist
HARTFORD, Conn. – With children in Connecticut facing among the highest early childhood obesity rates in the country, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is launching the Kohl’s Start Childhood Off Right (SCOR) initiative to address the problem.
Generously supported by a $350,000 grant from Kohl’s, SCOR is a two-year initiative that aims to create a comprehensive system to reduce childhood obesity in Hartford and will also have a significant regional impact due to its public awareness campaign. SCOR focuses on children ages birth to 2. This is an age group where few interventions have previously been targeted, even though research shows prevention efforts among infants and toddlers can have the most profound and long-lasting impacts.
“When I started in practice 25 years ago, I had one 4-year-old patient who weighed 100 pounds, and now that is not unusual,” said Nancy Trout, MD, a Connecticut Children’s pediatrician and co-director of the Kohl’s SCOR initiative. “The incidence of childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, and disproportionately affects low income and minority children. We need to engage in greater preventive efforts starting from birth so children are starting childhood off right with healthy nutrition and physical activity, and we need to build a system that helps families engage in those efforts.”
In Connecticut, 15.3 percent of 2 to 4 years olds enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are obese, which is the 12th highest state in the country, according to federal statistics. In Hartford, 2016 research conducted by the University of Connecticut shows 32 percent of 3 to 5 year olds are already overweight or obese. Additional research shows reversing obesity becomes very difficult if children are obese by age 5, and that such children have a 50 percent chance of becoming obese adolescents and adults. Such statistics make early intervention programs like SCOR crucial for at-risk children.
The SCOR initiative includes the following education efforts:
- A public awareness campaign (including media outreach, billboard advertising, and wellness events) to educate parents and caregivers about optimal nutrition for infants and toddlers.
- Education for pediatric providers on the importance of screening children for obesity risk factors and connecting those who are at-risk for obesity to community-based resources including home visiting programs.
- Training for home visitors so they can provide obesity prevention education to families.
- Re-establishing a childhood wellness collaborative to mobilize community stakeholders to raise awareness about this issue and create a health resource toolkit for families and providers.
“We look forward to partnering with community-based organizations, advocacy groups, healthcare organizations, and public health offices to connect families to resources and empower them to start childhood off right for their children,” said Stacy Chandna, co-director of the Kohl’s SCOR initiative. “It is essential to create a roadmap for available resources in Hartford that takes into account barriers to raising healthy children, such as education, access to healthy food, childcare, job opportunities, safe play spaces and secure housing.”
The SCOR initiative is overseen by Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, which promotes optimal healthy development for all children.
“It is critically important for hospitals and community organizations to address the growing childhood obesity epidemic,” said Paul Dworkin, MD, executive vice president for community child health at Connecticut Children’s. “We are excited to launch this new initiative as part of our commitment to promoting children’s optimal healthy development. We are confident it will deliver measurable results in the community to improve health outcomes for children not only in the short-term, but throughout their entire lives.”