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COLUMBIA – The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services is partnering with MU Health Care to promote healthy youth lifestyles with a new Fit-tastic program.
University of Missouri Health Care pediatricians are one of thirteen partners in a three-year initiative to increase the number of children with a healthy weight levels, activity levels and impact environmental changes that support healthy eating and active living.
The program ensures every child ages 2 to 18 has a healthy lifestyle assessment at the time of each pediatrician visit.
Eric Stann, a Boone County Public Health representative, said the assessment examines physical activity, screen time, water intake and nutrition of each child. The pediatricians then review the information with the child and his or her family before coming up with a maintainable goal.
“It’s designed to help teach children healthy choices to prevent obesity,” Stann said. “It also gives health care providers a structure when talking to their patients about challenging topics in a positive manner.”
After the assessment, the Fit-tastic program provides educational materials and incentives that help the children reach their goals after they leave the office.
“It provides really manageable goals for health care providers to tell parents and get them to adopt healthier behaviors,” Stann said. “One of the big things is limiting screen time to at most two hours per day. Also, increasing fruits and vegetables while increasing water intake.”
The program also gives pediatricians an easier way to track weight and activity progress among all patients.
“It’s more uniform based and allows everyone in the health community in Columbia to be on the same message when it comes to child care health,” Stann said.
The participating pediatricians put their recordings in the electronic medical records so they’ll be able to track if they are improving those habits when they come in for the next appointment.
“It’s a great guide line and framework for people to see distinctly how to possibly modify or change their behaviors to help increase healthy lifestyle choices,” Stann said.
MU Health Care pediatrician Anuradha Rajagopalan said pediatricians have been promoting similar measures individually, but this is more of a unified effort.
“We’re working together consistently to deliver the same message,” Rajagopalan said. “This effort puts everyone on the same page. I’m excited to track the results over time.”
Fit-tastic is a program which started three years ago at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. Stann says maintaining healthy youth lifestyles is more important now than ever before.
“A lot of the younger generation is spending a lot more time looking at a screen,” Stann said. “Our 2013 health assessment showed that the majority of Boone counties are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. By starting with the children, the parents can follow in their healthy footsteps.”