Two New Programs Aim to Prevent, Treat Childhood Obesity

MONDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Two major research programs that will examine ways to prevent and treat childhood obesity have been launched by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

"Childhood obesity is a major public health concern. If we don't curb this widespread problem, our country will see a substantial increase in cardiovascular disease and other health issues in the years ahead," Dr. Susan B. Shurin, acting director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), said in an agency news release.

"Childhood is the optimal time to encourage healthy habits that kids can practice for the rest of their lives," she added.

The NHLBI is the lead sponsor for both programs, totaling $72.5 million.

The $49.5 million Childhood Obesity Prevention and Treatment Research program will develop and test anti-obesity strategies that target home, community and primary-care settings for preschool children who live in poor, ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

It will also examine the effectiveness of home- and school-based obesity treatments on overweight and obese children ages 7 to 14 years.

The second program will evaluate existing community-based efforts to reduce childhood obesity in 300 communities across the nation, at a cost of $23 million.

"Over the past several years, communities across the United States have been implementing programs and policies to encourage healthier eating, increase opportunities for physical activity, and other steps to reverse increasing rates of childhood obesity," Denise Simons-Morton, director of the NHLBI's Division for the Application of Research Discoveries, said in the news release.

"This study will evaluate such community programs to determine which of them or their components are the most promising approaches for improving children's obesity-related health behaviors and weight," she explained.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, news release, Sept. 9, 2010