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UM School of Medicine finds mentorship program successfully fights childhood obesity
Date:8/2/2010

A program pairing healthy young adults with urban middle school students helped the adolescents adopt healthy habits, active lifestyles and a healthy weight, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The study, published August 2 in the journal Pediatrics, found that linking African American, inner city adolescents in Baltimore with one-on-one mentorship from college students prevented the schoolchildren from becoming overweight for at least two years after the mentorship experience. Researchers found the adolescents ate fewer snacks and desserts, and engaged in active play more often. The rate of overweight/obesity in the group declined five percent.

The home- and community-based intervention a program called Challenge! shows promise as a way to have a major impact on children's lives, according to the study's lead author, Maureen M. Black, Ph.D., John A. Scholl, M.D., and Mary Louise Scholl, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The rate of childhood obesity in America has tripled in the past three decades, particularly among low income, urban children. Parents alone are often unable to prevent excessive weight gain among their children. More than three-quarters of the caregivers of children in the Challenge! study were overweight or obese themselves.

"Obesity puts children at risk for health problems now, during their adolescence, and certainly as they get older," says Dr. Black. "It places nearly every system in a child's body at risk the cardiovascular system, the musculoskeletal system, the endocrine system, and can also compromise a child's mental health. Ultimately, obesity affects longevity. Childhood obesity is a defining public health issue of our time."

Various existing obesity outreach programs target children in large groups, such as at school or at church, but Dr. Black and her colleagues noted that home-based interventions are lacki
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Contact: Karen Buckelew
kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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