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U of L researchers look for ways to fight childhood obesity

Hope Williams, Concerned mom

"I brought my triplets in for their ten year old checkup…"

Hope Williams is worried times three. She knows the risks of obesity and wants her kids to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Williams again

"They're more active now. I guess because they're more aware to be busy and burn calories and not just eat or be a couch potato."

Her kids are in the middle of a 12 week childhood obesity invervention program at the University of Louisville aimed at African-American kids.

Dr. Robert Topp, U of L School of Nursing

"As obesity is increasing among all kids, we're seeing the greatest gains in African Americans and Hispanic populations. It's a big problem among a group generally without resources to help themselves with the problem."

Dr. Robert Topp is the Associate Dean at U of L's School of Nursing. He says the obesity study covers exercise, eating, attitude and understanding.

Dr. Topp continues

"They may not recognize a problem exists until we educate them and say obesity is having an effect on your life and your family. If a kid isn't ready to change, you have to help him get there by cognitive interventions. Changing his attitude, increasing his knowledge about obesity, and change the way he thinks about the problem of obesity."

Technology helps Topp and his staff gather information. This watch is called the Actical. It monitors a child's movement in a ten day period. It translates that movement into caloric expenditure, giving precise measurements of the child's activity.

Dr. Topp says

"Part of the problem with obesity is people just don't move a whole lot. So we get an accurate picture of how much movement they start with and as a result of our interaction with them we find out if they move more.",/p>

This information also guides the program for that particular child. The challenge is finding out how willing the child—and parent—are to fight obesity.

Dr. Topp adds

"We're trying to target the intervention specifically to where they are in their continuum of readiness to change."

This is the first phase of the obesity study. The larger part follows the kids for six months to a year to see if any of the behavior changes are long-term.

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