Spectrum receives $150,000 to combat obesity

REED CITY – Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital announced Friday it will launch an after-school program targeting childhood obesity after receiving a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Rural FitKids will be a 12-week course and a 4-week follow-up course designed for kids and their families. Children 5 to 16 years-old enrolled in the program will meet weekly with registered dietitians, exercise instructors and community health workers to learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The program also will feature in-home visits by community health workers to support those lessons in the home.

“Rural FitKids is an opportunity to teach kids in rural school districts the meaning of health, how to become healthy and

stay healthy,” said Jodie Faber, United Lifestyles’ Executive Director. “The program works in tandem with their parents or guardians with the intention of making long-term changes within the home.”

To qualify for the program, students must have a body mass index at the 85th percentile or higher and have written referral from a health care provider.

The comprehensive program combines basic education about nutrition, behavior and exercise with a wide range of physical activities. Spectrum Health United Hospital’s United Lifestyles will direct and oversee the program, which has a goal of providing an effective solution for overweight children who have been unable to make positive changes on their own.

“We feel honored to have been selected to receive funds from HHS,” said Kim Lombard, registered dietician and the Rural FitKids site coordinator at Reed City Hospital. “Because of these funds and the commitment of Spectrum Health, we will have the opportunity to work with kids to better their health and lead longer, healthier lives.”

Rural FitKids will begin Aug. 1 in the Reed City Area Public Schools community, as well as in Greenville and Hesperia.

The program is based on FitKids 360, a Grand Rapids-based First Steps childhood obesity program. The hospital will provide site coordinators, to work onsite at each of the three school districts to implement the program.

“Childhood obesity is on the rise across our nation, including in rural communities here in Michigan. It has been reported that Montcalm, Newaygo and Osceola counties currently have adolescent obesity rates above the average rates in Michigan,” Faber said. “Data also demonstrates that the nutrition habits of kids in these counties lag behind their peers across the state.”

The grant for the program is part of a distribution of more than $10.4 million in funds to rural health providers. Money is given for organizations providing direct health care services to their communities and will be distributed over the course of three years. Funding is distributed through HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, the primary federal agency for improving health care access for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable.

Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital is one of three Spectrum hospitals that have been selected to receive $450,000 in grant funds to implement Rural FitKids in Osceola, Montcalm and Newaygo counties. Spectrum Health United Hospital will run the Greenville program and Spectrum Health Gerber Hospital will implement the program in Hesperia.

“We understand the need for a program like this because of our recently completed community health needs assessment, which shows there is a high level of obesity in Osceola County,” said Sue Snavely, Spectrum Health Reed City hospital media representative. “Being awarded this grant is very important in improving the health in the community.”

Lombard would like to hear from parents and caregivers who are interested in the program. She hopes to see as many as 40 students and their families successfully complete the program in the 2012-13 school year.

Individuals interested in the program can contact Lombard at (231) 832-4812.