Obesity: A Program for Elementary Students

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Guest: Dr. Roger B. Newman - OB/GYN Maternal-Fetal Medicine

Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatrist

Dr. Linda Austin: I am Dr. Linda Austin. I am talking today with Dr. Roger Newman, who is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Newman, I understand that one of your pet interests is a very interesting project to reduce adolescent obesity, can you describe that program?

Dr. Roger B. Newman: Yes, we are very excited about the program we have going in partnership with Wilmot J. Fraser Elementary and supported by the Department of Health and Human Services in Colombia. It is a program that we have put together to provide an after-school activity and education program for the kids at Wilmot J. Fraser with the goal of preventing obesity.

Dr. Linda Austin: Why is that so important?

Dr. Roger B. Newman: Well, as you read everyday in the newspaper and hear on the news, the United States is in the midst of an epidemic of obesity and it is clearer than ever that this epidemic is starting in childhood if not infancy. There are more school-aged children -- elementary school-aged children, who fall into overweight or obese category than ever before and everybody who looks at it comes to the same conclusion. It has to do with the quality of food and the quantity of food they are eating and their level of physical activity.

Dr. Linda Austin: So in this program, what do they do?

Dr. Roger B. Newman: As I said, we have partnered with Wilmot J. Fraser, but other partners in this project are the Nutrition Service here at the Medical University, the Physical Fitness Educators at Harper Student Center, and a private organization called the Dae Foundation, the CEO of which is a former College of Charleston basketball player named Jermel President and the Dae Foundation is dedicated to physical education and skills training and education for underprivileged children here on the Charleston Peninsula. So basically, we bring the kids from Wilmot J. Fraser over to the Harper Student Center after school. We divide them into two groups and one group spends an hour with our nutritionist, who are teaching them about healthy eating habits and all about the different foods and what are the carbohydrates and fat contents of various foods and how to eat more healthfully and then on another day, they meet with the physical fitness people from Harper Student Center, who teach them about their bodies, the different muscle groups, how to exercise them, what are good activities as opposed to activities that don’t do the much benefit. So, it’s kind of an intensive educational program and while they are doing that, the other half is involved in a basketball skills training program with Jermel President and his trainers in the Dae Foundation. The kids love that aspect of it and run around and learn some skills and it’s coupled with the educational program, and we carry out that program over about a six-week period and at the end of it, our goal is the kids know a lot more about healthy eating and healthy physical fitness that their behaviors in terms of eating and physical activity change and we are also looking for improvement in their physical fitness using what we used to when we were in school was, what’s called the, President’s Physical Fitness Challenge Testing. We do that before and after the program -- we are able to see their improvements.

Dr. Linda Austin: Like you, I have been a physician for many years in the South and have 03:16 to associate certain health problems with the African-American population. I think because the African-American population here is so often underprivileged and victims of poverty. I spent three years in Maine, which an all-white state, but also a very poor state and all of the problems that I had seen here in the African-American population I saw in Maine in a white population; problems with obesity, hypertension, and cultural problems having to do with poverty, why is it in your opinion that to be poor in America is so often associated with obesity and the health problems that result?

Dr. Roger B. Newman: Yes, that’s a tough question, but I think that we shouldn’t over think it. I think sometimes the answers are obvious. Children raised in a single parent household that is constantly fighting against poverty don’t have the healthy nutrition choices that we probably had when we were growing up. The association between poverty and obesity is clear. I am sure the answer is multifactorial, but in keeping with what we are trying to teach the children, our experience is that the kids don’t have access to the same healthy nutrition opportunities that we do. There is an over utilization of fast foods that are very high in carbohydrate and fat. There is not the opportunity for meal planning and the diversity of food options in the house as we probably had when we were growing up, and also poverty is associated with a limitation of options in terms of physical fitness opportunities. How many big backyards are there in the poverty-stricken area; they don’t have the parks, the areas to go play and if they do have them, they may not be safe. So, kids can’t come home from school in the afternoon and take off into the neighborhood to run and play with the other kids the way we probably did when we grew up.

Dr. Linda Austin: This is a wonderful program. I am curious though how you as an obstetrician and an obstetric researcher became involved in this?

Dr. Roger B. Newman: I wish I knew you’re right, it’s not really my area of medical training, but I have my own kids. It’s obvious the need in the community. Probably more than anything else my interest in this was stimulated by becoming involved with the Dae Foundation and what they are trying to achieve for the children on the Charleston Peninsula in terms of giving them an opportunity to excel both academically, but also athletically, and to build their self-esteem, and have the opportunities you want all your children to be able to have.

Dr. Linda Austin: Such a big program. Thank you very much Dr. Newman.

Dr. Roger B. Newman: Thank you very much.

Announcer: If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC Health Connection at (843) 792-1414.


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