Healthy Weight and Your Child

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By West Cook YMCA

As part of its focus on healthy youth development, the West Cook YMCA is proud to offer Healthy Weight and Your Child, a family-based lifestyle modification program. The twenty-five session program is a childhood obesity prevention and weight management program which focuses on instilling healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Chronic Disease Program Coordinator, Jenny Kraak notes that with Healthy Weight and Your Child programming, the West Cook YMCA is participating in the YMCA of the USA program that is working to build healthy families across the nation. "It's an evidenced-based program that incorporates physical activity with a discussion component."

In order to qualify for the program, children must be between the ages of 7 and 13 and with a body mass index in the 95th percentile or higher. Youth participants must receive permission from a health care provider or school nurse to participate, and adult participation is required.

Kraak notes that the 25 session program begins with 10 weeks of meeting two times per week, with each session focused on a particular topic. During the two hour meetings, parents and children meet for one hour with a facilitator. Parents continue to meet with the facilitator for an additional 30 minutes while children are led in games and activities. For the final 30 minutes parents and children join in family games geared towards incorporating activity into everyday life and fun. For the final five weeks of the program, participants meet once weekly for two hours.

"What this does is build relationships between the youth and the family. The families really come together; it's a very supportive environment," Kraak says of the program.

Each week, Healthy Weight and Your Child covers a new topic. Within each session, facilitators cover day-to-day decisions including food label reading, grocery shopping, portion control, healthy eating and physical activity. Whether the week's topic is nutritional information, goal setting, food groups, or moving, Kraak emphasizes that the program moves slowly over a long period of time to facilitate the families learning how to make choices for themselves.

Now in its second season, Healthy Weight and Your Child offers classes at both the West Cook YMCA sponsored by PCC Community Wellness and at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park through a partnership with Loyola University Health System. The West Cook YMCA is also exploring other partnerships to increase accessibility throughout the community. At the end of the program, Kraak says that families and children are better equipped to move forward in a healthier direction. "Families are getting the information they need, and then they can make the choices for themselves that will lead to a healthier future."

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