Across the United States, childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five children and adolescents (ages 6 to 19) are overweight or obese. In South Carolina, 33 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, and Greenville County has a higher child overweight and obesity prevalence rate than the state average. While childhood obesity has many causes, healthy behaviors – including healthy eating habits and physical activity – can aid in the prevention of obesity and reduce a child’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, cancer, and other debilitating health conditions. Partnerships that focus on improving children’s lives through family engagement with healthy eating are making a positive difference in community health.
New Impact is a healthy lifestyle and nutrition program for children with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to the 85th percentile. In addition to providing access to a variety of health care professionals who can help improve physical well-being, New Impact partners for educational and psychological support to ensure that children and families are set up for success in creating healthy lifestyles. New Impact is a collaborative effort between Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital and the YMCA for program delivery; and Clemson University for program evaluation and effectiveness research. These partnerships are key to increasing the success of New Impact, helping families, and combating the health disparities impacting childhood obesity.
Qualitative interviews with New Impact participants suggest that parent/caregiver engagement is key to success and achieved better results in lifestyle change at the family level. Families and children mentioned that simple cooking classes and education on portion sizes was an easily replicable way to eat more healthily. Some participants stated that general awareness of what types of food they were eating led to improved nutritional choices.
Evaluative outcomes demonstrated a significant improvement in mean BMI scores from pre-treatment to post-treatment. Children and families consulted with YMCA wellness coaches and used YMCA services for a reduced rate. New Impact has also worked with the Swamp Rabbit Trail and Greenville Parks and Recreation for sponsored runs with clinicians and families.
The New Impact program has engaged patient, community, and clinical partners in a continuous improvement process since 2010. More specifically, patient and clinical feedback and engagement have contributed to adaptations in treatment delivery protocols, standard patient progress measures, and staffing configurations. Patient engagement is guided by a commitment to collaborative decision-making, co-learning, and interactions that build trust and are transparent and honest.
New Impact will continue to offer an effective and unique program that addresses the increasing problem of childhood obesity through program adjustments to enhance community-based elements. New Impact is committed to strengthening social engagement and accountability components that will lessen the logistical burden on families, leading to increased participant retention and success with weight management.
Contact: Cathy Jones
Major Gift Officer, Philanthropy