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Innovative program targets obese children

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Health experts in Sarnia are seeing an alarming rise in the number of obese children and intend to fight the battle of the bulge with a unique strategy for families.

An estimated 9,000 children and youth under the age of 19 are overweight or obese in Sarnia-Lambton, says Shaylin Kemmerling, a registered dietitian with the Rapids Family Health Team.

She is working with a nurse practitioner, other dietitians, a social worker and local pediatricians to establish a new program taking a fresh approach.

It’s called Momentum, and it operates on the belief that being mindful of the food we eat, and having regular family meals, are keys to healthy weight.

“There’s nothing else like Momentum,” said Kemmerling.  “The reason I love it is it addresses the emotional, the physical and the social aspects.  It is holistic.”

The provincial government is slowly waking up to the reality childhood obesity is rampant in Ontario. But there is no specific funding for innovative programs like Momentum.

“At Rapids, we took a look at needs in our community that aren’t being met and childhood obesity came out on top,” said Kemmerling.

She and the team spent nine months researching approaches. They visited clinics in Ottawa, Hamilton and the University of Michigan that specialize in childhood obesity, and took the best ideas from each.

Local physicians like Dr. Thomas Lacroix see a large number of overweight kids with joint issues, hypertension and diabetes. He’s providing his support as Momentum gets off the ground this month. In its first week, three children and their parents had their first consultation.

Once a referral is made by a doctor regarding an obese child aged two to 18 years, they visit the clinic located in kid-friendly offices at the London Road Diagnostic Clinic. The program is free.

The nurse practitioner will monitor medical issues like blood pressure and weight.  A social worker will counsel about bullying, self-esteem and other concerns. The dietician will discuss healthy eating.

“First, we have to find out what is stopping people from making healthier changes in their lives,” said Kemmerling.

The team meets after the first consultation and customizes an intervention plan that could include everything from exercise and diet changes to social work visits and a change in medications.

Not everything has to happen at the clinic itself.

“We’ll meet in the grocery stores to read nutritional labels together.  We’ll help with the selection of groceries.  We’ll talk about cooking and get involved in food prep,” said Kemmerling.

Momentum is designed to make a difference without having to use a special diet or discuss weight with the child.

Volunteers are currently needed to supervise the children in the clinic’s waiting room.

Call 519-339-8949 for details.


0 Sharing at least 3 to 4 family meals per week cuts the odds of a child developing obesity by half.

0 Children who get the message they are fat feel flawed in every way, including their intellectual and physical capability.

0 Research shows that in 2011, 31.5% of Canadians aged 5 to 17 were overweight or obese, with 19.8% overweight and 11.7% obese.

0 Overweight children continue to be overweight adults.

0 Momentum aims to serve 50 children and their families in the first 12 months.

 Source: Rapids Family Health Team





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