State Department of Health Launches Partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 | 06:00pm

Program Addresses Epidemic of Childhood Obesity

Memphis, January 19, 2006

On Saturday January 21, the Tennessee Department of Health announces the kick-off a pilot program to combat childhood obesity in the state. Through a partnership with the Tennessee Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Inc., the Department is sponsoring “Commit To Be Fit”, a nutrition and healthy lifestyle program in Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, Middle Tennessee (Metropolitan Nashville) and Tennessee Valley (Metropolitan Knoxville) with plans to perfect the model and make it available statewide. “Commit to be Fit” will teach youths how to make nutritious food choices and live a healthy lifestyle by participating in individual, team or non-traditional sports and other fitness activities.

“Unless something is done immediately to alter current nutrition and activity trends in our youth, the incidence of health problems attributed to childhood obesity will grow exponentially every year,” said Health Commissioner Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D. “It is crucial that the communities surrounding children – schools, faith organizations, parents and other adults, neighborhoods, businesses and health care providers – act together to prioritize children’s health.”

Children who join the program will be screened at the beginning of the yearlong program and every quarter after the initial screening, as well as participate in pre- and post-program surveys to measure their attitudes regarding healthy habits.

“There is no better partner in the fight against childhood obesity than the Tennessee Department of Health to ensure that Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the state of Tennessee continue to make a positive difference in the lives of the children we serve,” said Judge Don Ash, president of the Tennessee Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. “We must arm our young people with the tools necessary to make positive decisions about nutrition and physical activity. Boys & Girls Clubs across the state are committed to helping our young people be the fittest and healthiest they can be, and through this partnership with the Department of Health we are taking positive steps in the right direction.”

Shaping America’s Youth (SAY), the nation’s first-ever large scale community meeting to address the epidemic of overweight children, convenes in Memphis on Saturday, January 21, 2006, where Commissioner Robinson will announce the partnership between the Department and the Tennessee Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Inc. The grassroots summit is the first in a series of interactive, high-tech meetings, which will be held around the country to develop a national action plan for reversing the epidemic of childhood overweight and inactivity.

“The partnership between the Department and Boys & Girls Clubs is a real-life example of what Tennesseans can do to reduce childhood obesity and what Shaping America’s Youth is trying to accomplish,” Commissioner Robinson said.

Hundreds of Mid-South stakeholders, including parents, grandparents, youth ages 14 and older, business, civic and government leaders, urban planners, churches, educators and health care providers, will be the first to help bring about a national approach to get kids more physically active and eating healthier.


Also present will be Governor Phil Bredesen; Assistant U.S. Surgeon General Woodie Kessel, M.D.; Fran Kaufman, M.D., American Academy of Pediatrics; Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton; and representatives from Shaping America’s Health, Healthy Memphis Common Table and the Association for Weight Management and Obesity Prevention. U.S. Senators Bill Frist and Ron Wyden, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and Surgeon General Richard Carmona, M.D., will address participants via videotape.

Childhood obesity is fast becoming a major health problem in Tennessee, with 25 percent of WIC children who are obese or at risk to be obese. As children’s consumption of sugary, salty and fatty foods increase, activity is decreasing: the average child spends five hours of his or her day in sedentary pastimes like watching television or playing video games. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predict that one-third of American children born in 2000 will eventually develop Type II diabetes if current eating and exercise trends are not reversed, with minority children at a higher risk.

Tennessee has made significant strides in addressing childhood obesity as evidenced by recent Public School Vending Legislation and Body Mass Index Legislation. Tennessee is among 11 states in the U.S. receiving a “B” for efforts to control obesity from the CDC (no state received and “A”). 

While we are encouraged by our progress, we recognize much more can still be done,” Commissioner Robinson said. “The communities surrounding children must take an active role in addressing the problem of childhood obesity.”

For more information about Shaping America’s Youth or to register for the free event, please visit or call 1-800-SAY-9221

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