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Ideastream Program Examines Childhood Obesity in Northeast Ohio

Posted on July 15, 2013

Be Well: Young and Obese, an hour-long documentary produced by WVIZ, explores childhood obesity in Northeast Ohio. Approximately 20% of children over age 10 in the state of Ohio are obese. Young and Obese presents the stories of children and their families, as well as researchers and practitioners in the region and nationally who are focused on reducing childhood obesity. The program focuses on policy changes to reduce the environmental factors that contribute to obesity.

Experts in this television program emphasize the importance of prevention of childhood obesity. In the documentary, Faculty Associate Robert Needlman describes the choices that parents can make early in their children’s lives to prevent obesity later in life. He strongly encourages parents to breastfeed, limit television viewing and make healthy food choices themselves to provide a good model for their children. He also stresses the importance of moderation in children’s consumption of high-sugar and high-fat foods.

The program highlights the Students Eating Locally (SEL) program at in the South Euclid-Lyndhurst School District, which brings fresh produce from local farms to school lunches, allowing schools to reduce the amount of processed food in school lunches. In the program, Terry Allen, Health Commissioner of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, highlighted the importance of providing opportunities for physical activity, such as making it easier for children to walk or bike to school. Other environmental challenges to combatting childhood obesity are also addressed, such as food deserts, which are areas in which there are few grocery stores and many corner stores and fast food outlets, reducing opportunities to make healthy food choices. Prevention of childhood obesity can begin even before birth. The program follows a mother and daughter pair who are participants in a study at Case Western Reserve University to understand prenatal factors that may increase the risk of childhood and adult obesity.

The documentary also describes Impact, a study at Case Western Reserve University and UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, in which children and their families design ways to make changes in their daily habits and test the changes’ effectiveness. The study focuses on the importance of giving children ownership over the kinds of changes they are making. The study is being conducted by the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at CWRU. The We Run This City Marathon Program, a collaboration between the Cleveland YMCA, CWRU and other local partners that trains children in Cleveland area schools to run all or part of the Cleveland Marathon, is highlighted in the program.

Several other Schubert Center Faculty Associates study prevention and health effects of childhood obesity. Elaine Borawski, director of the Center for Health Promotion Research and co-director of the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, studies prevention of and interventions for obesity, including conducting the Impact study. She is recently conducted a study of the We Run This City Marathon Program. Leona Cuttler, director of The Center for Child Health & Policy at Rainbow Babies and Children, specializes in childhood diabetes and obesity. Ellen Rome, head of the section of adolescent medicine at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, studies eating disorders and obesity among adolescents. Amy Sheon, director of the Urban Health Institute, is working to create a model for obesity surveillance.

The entire program and additional resources are available on the Ideastream website.

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