KCU Receives HCF Grant to Fight Obesity in Urban Neighborhoods

Jun 7, 2016
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Score 1 for Health, an outreach program of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, has received a two-year grant in the amount of $175,000 from the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City. This funding will be used to expand CHAMPS (Coaching Health and Movement Program with Students), a successful pilot program that enlists volunteer medical students as health coaches for children identified as at risk for obesity.

“We are thrilled,” said Annette Campbell, Director of Score 1 for Health. “This project is an innovative way to help children and families living with economic stressors get the resources they need to live healthy lives, while equipping tomorrow’s physicians with important tools to fight the epidemic of obesity they will face as they practice medicine.”

CHAMPS connects medical students and families living in under-resourced communities. Following coursework and training by a pediatrician and a registered dietitian, medical students are matched with children who have a high body mass index.

Medical students hold coaching sessions on topics such as making healthy choices, health goals, or exercise for family fun. The sessions may include games involving vegetables, or a trip to a Farmers Market. The emphasis is on health, not weight.

“We don’t weigh the kids,” said Dr. Anne VanGarsse, pediatrician. “And we don’t talk about their weight. We build on what parents already know about health and celebrate all the little wins along the way.”

In the one year pilot program from April 2015-2016, 28 medical students were trained and 51 children (representing 38 families) were coached during individual sessions.

Esmerelda joined the program because two of her daughters were not eating healthy. During the program their clothes became looser, and their attitudes toward food improved. 

“The best thing is the awareness it brought to my children about eating less sweets and including vegetables and staying fit overall,” she said.

Aside from the primary benefit of giving children and families vital resources that can impact their health and future, VanGarsse says CHAMPS helps medical students become comfortable talking with patients about a topic that is sometimes ignored.

“Research has demonstrated that physicians are not comfortable in bringing up issues of weight, overweight and obesity. They need practice on how to do that well.”

With funding from the HCF and time to expand the program, VanGarsse believes CHAMPS may benefit children in other communities as well.

“At KCU we hope to develop a national model in treating the epidemic of overweight children and childhood obesity, said Dr. VanGarsse. “Medical education should be on the front line of fighting this fight.”

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