While March is National Nutrition Month, nutrition is a year-round focus at Vibrant Health.
Pediatric obesity is the top chronic condition we see at our three clinic locations with 743 children between ages 2-19 diagnosed as obese. And this problem isn’t unique to our clinic. A recent study conducted by Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics found that Wyandotte County has the highest pediatric obesity rates in the Kansas City area (32%), and half of Wyandotte County school-aged children (5-12 years old) are overweight or obese.
At Vibrant Health, we’re working to decrease health disparities our patients face. Based on these findings, we know that helping children manage their weight and decrease their risk for life-long diseases like diabetes and hypertension is critical to our work.
Our Healthy Lifestyles Obesity Management program works one-on-one with patients and families to increase healthy habits and decrease weight. Patients and their families learn about five daily habits that can improve their health: 1 hour (or more) of physical activity, 2 hours (or less) of screen time, 3 servings of milk or yogurt, 4 servings of water (no sugary drinks), and 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Armando, our Healthy Lifestyles Care Coordinator, meets with patients and their families monthly, educating them about weight management, offering support and encouragement, and setting small goals – like trying one new vegetable – that over time lead to improved health.
“I understand how the families feel and I want to help,” Armando said. “Most of the families speak Spanish and they need help understanding. I’m from Mexico City. When I moved here, I was almost 19 years old. It was really hard for me to be here because I didn’t know any English; I had to learn English. I got a certificate from Children’s Mercy for medical interpretation to be able to help families.”
Armando and the Healthy Lifestyles program help patients like Carlos. At the advice of his pediatrician, Carlos and his family worked with Armando to help Carlos lose weight and move from an obese BMI (body mass index) status to normal/healthy. This was not an easy task, but Carlos was determined. He set goals to increase physical activity and decrease sugary drinks. With the support of the Healthy Lifestyles team, Carlos’ family became energized and involved – which is crucial for success. Carlos’ mother learned about better food and drink options through visits with the Care Coordinator, and was referred to free nutrition classes at El Centro – a Vibrant Health program partner. Carlos learned to ride a bike, and found a fun new way to increase his physical activity each day. Through all of this and more, Carlos graduated from the Healthy Lifestyles program. He is now a source of inspiration to other patients and families working hard to make healthy changes.
As we seek to provide empowering, culturally-sensitive healthcare that decreases health disparities across Wyandotte County, we’re confidant that innovative programs like Healthy Lifestyles are key to helping us achieve our mission.