Today's guest bloggers are Abby Duffine Gillman, Department of Nutrition Sciences at Drexel University, Healthy Futures Initiative Project Manager, and Stella Volpe, Ph.D. , Department of Nutrition Sciences, Professor and Chair at Drexel University, Principal Investigator of Healthy Futures.

Imagine your 10-year-old neighbor. He wakes up, takes the bus to school, sits in class all day, comes home to watch television, eats dinner, plays computer games and goes to bed. This is the typical lifestyle of many children in the United States.  The Independence Blue Cross Foundation's Healthy Futures Initiative aims to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic affecting the children in our community.

Healthy Futures goes beyond just doing good for our community. It is a validated three-year research study currently taking place in 13 schools in the Philadelphia region, approved by Drexel University's Institutional Review Board. The results of the study will provide science-backed evidence for future changes within schools. It will also identify which interventions provide the most impact, and how to make these changes stick.

Healthy Futures is a comprehensive approach to improving child wellness that works with respected partners from across the region. Read more about the Healthy Futures "Eat Right," "Get Fit," and "Stay Well," components. For example, the "Get Fit" component includes weekly visits from Don Baxter, President of Fit Essentials, Inc. He teaches the children to have fun, while increasing their heart rate and improving their motor skills.

The Drexel University research team, together with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia school nurse, will collect student health data continuously throughout the three-year research project. Height, body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference will be taken twice a year to see if and how Healthy Futures changes these important health parameters.

To date, Healthy Futures has collected baseline data on more than 600 fourth-grade students who are organized into three intervention groups:

  • Core students receive the most programming from the partners, almost daily

  • Level 1 students receive some programming, but less than the Core students.

  • Control students receive no programming, so our researchers can compare the effectiveness of the Healthy Futures interventions.

When the study began last October, the students did not differ in height or waist circumference measurements across the three groups.  We did, however, see a slight difference between body weight and BMI among the three groups.  While we are still early in our research, we are excited about the baseline data. With this information, we can measure the effect of Healthy Futures over the next two years, and inspire change in schools throughout the region.

Based on the enthusiastic feedback and praise from students and school administrators, Healthy Futures is already making a difference. We are hopeful that the research will show positive results in reducing BMI and improving children's health in general.

While your school may not have this type of programming, here are some helpful websites that can help you make healthier choices and get your family more active:

American College of Sports Medicine

The President's Challenge

Kids Eat Right

Choose My Plate

Let's Move!

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