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

ng. With the help of an advisory board made up of urban youths in Baltimore, the researchers developed the Challenge! program as a way to bring "personal trainers" directly to children's homes to demonstrate for them how to live in a healthy way.

"We tried to normalize being healthy and taking care of yourself," says Dr. Black. The program even included a rap developed by a West Baltimore performer specifically for Challenge! "We wanted to make it normal and cool to be healthy and fit," Dr. Black adds.

The study enrolled 235 primarily African American children ages 11 through 16, all from low income, urban West Baltimore communities surrounding the University of Maryland School of Medicine. About 38 percent of the children were already overweight. Half of the kids were randomly assigned to the mentorship program Dr. Black and her colleagues designed, with a control group assigned to no intervention. For mentors, researchers recruited healthy African American students or recent African American graduates from Baltimore area colleges to visit one-on-one with the children for 12 sessions.

"These were very active sessions," says Dr. Black. "The mentors were not just talking to them. In every session they had food, and they often made the food together in the child's home. The mentors took the children to the corner store or to a nearby fast-food restaurant to learn about healthy choices. They visited the skating rink or went hiking in a state park to learn the importance of being physically active."

One of the challenges in working with adolescents, Dr. Black explains, is that they are just beginning to become independent and to have their own money to spend. Their parents provide many meals, so the adolescents' food choices are limited. The mentors focused on snacks and making healthy choices when the adolescents are on their own. For example, the kids learned how make healthy food choices at corner stores and fast food restaurants,
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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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