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PowerUp! Childhood Obesity Initiative Launches

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Influential Atlanta Organizations Align to Bring Healthy Habits to Metro Children 

Childhood obesity is one of the greatest threats to Georgia’s leaders of tomorrow. A recent report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that Georgia has the third-highest percentage of obese and overweight children between the ages of 10-17 in the country, at 37.3%. 

The leadership of the Resurgens Charitable Foundation determined they wanted this to be their main focus in 2010. With an initial obesity summit last fall, multiple influential Atlanta organizations joined together to create PowerUp!, an initiative that launched February 22, 2010. 

The PowerUp! team includes the Resurgens Charitable Foundation, partnered with the Georgia PTA, Kennesaw State University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation, YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta, fitAtlanta Magazine, the Health Education and Communication Center of Atlanta, the Georgia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, the Georgia State Board of Education, and the Governor’s office. It is a unique partnership aimed at combating Georgia’s childhood obesity epidemic through behavior modification regarding physical activities and health and nutrition education. 

Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick, president of Resurgens Charitable Foundation and co-president of Resurgens Orthopaedics, said this endeavor is not only critical for each individual child it will touch, but also for the future of Georgia. 

“Recent statistics are startling and call us to act now. We see a public health disaster on the horizon as all too often, overweight children become obese adults and face a lifetime of struggle with chronic health issues,” said Dr. Kirkpatrick. 

The Division of Public Health at the Georgia Department Community of Health reported in its 2009 Georgia Data Summary that 24 percent of third grade children are obese. The Health People 2010 national goal for obesity among children and youth (ages 6-18) is 5 percent. In a recent assessment, 52 percent of 5th and 7th grade students did not pass a cardiovascular health assessment. 

The first PowerUp! Program was launched in YMCA After-School programs representing students from seven schools in the metro Atlanta area (Spalding Drive, Benefield, and a combination of students from Cedar Hills, Margaret Winn Holt, Craig, Pharr, and Simonton). The effort incorporates the YMCA’s successful Youth Fit For Lifeä (YFFL) program for children between 5 and 12. The 12-week program consists of cardiovascular exercises three times per week in the form of non-competitive activities and cooperative games. It adds resistance training twice a week using resistance bands and incorporates health and nutrition education. 

Training in behavioral skills such as goal setting, progress tracking, and productive self-talk helps students increase their physical activity beyond the program, according to Dr. Jim Annesi, Director of Wellness Advancement with the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta 

“It’s no secret children are getting less active, and we realized they need to have physical outlets that are not strictly based around athletics,” said Dr. Annesi. “By starting children down the right path early in life, our data has clearly shown dramatic improvements in health risks in those children we’ve been able to reach. After age 12, habits become firmly entrenched and it’s tough to break them.” 

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled among adults and has tripled among children and adolescents from 1980 to 2004. Currently, two-thirds of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese. 

In addition to expanding metro-wide in the fall, PowerUp! will also be searching for additional programs and affiliations as it looks to add to its roster of activities aimed at promoting total health in Georgia’s youth. 

Join the online PowerUp! community on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PowerUp. 

Resurgens Charitable Foundation, whose mission is “to support our community with the opportunities to play, to heal, to learn, and to live,” was formed in 2001 with a fund raising effort in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Since then, it has evolved to focus on youth health and fitness, and raising funds to build specially designed “all abilities” playgrounds for children in the metropolitan Atlanta area. A major goal of the Foundation is to support construction of at least one of these playgrounds a year. Learn more at www.resurgensfoundation.com.