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Media Advisory

April 8, 2003

St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities to Launch Strategic Plan
for the Prevention and Treatment of Houston’s Overweight Children

(HOUSTON) – St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities will unveil the results of extensive research on Houston’s childhood obesity problem at a press conference on Wednesday, April 9, and–along with 31 community and academic partners–launch the Houston–Harris County Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative, a strategic, comprehensive, community-based program for the treatment and prevention of overweight children and adolescents.

In a recent survey of the Texas Department of Health Public Health Region 6 (which includes the Houston area), researchers found that almost 50% of 4th graders were at-risk or overweight, the highest rate of all the Public Health Regions in the state. The prevalence of obesity in Houston exceeds the state estimate of 35%, according to the Strategic Plan for the Prevention of Obesity in Texas (2003). The Texas Legislature is currently studying ways to deal with the problem statewide.

The Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative is the culmination of a series of planning dialogues that focused on behavioral and environmental factors contributing to obesity in children. The goal was to develop a comprehensive strategic plan that incorporated the related childhood obesity programs and activities in and around Houston and Harris County, with special attention to previous work done by the CDC and the Strategic Plan for the Prevention of Obesity in Texas. Seven recommendations, which will be announced at the press conference, were developed for community-based interventions to treat and prevent obesity in children and adolescents. The Initiative will be piloted in Houston’s East End, a medically underserved, predominantly Hispanic community.

Obesity in children contributes to life long problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, liver dysfunction, eating disorders, depression, and low self-esteem. The number of American overweight children has doubled and the number of overweight adolescents has almost tripled in the last two decades. Houston has been named the nation’s “fattest city” for three consecutive years by Men’s Fitness magazine.

WHO:  St. Luke’s Episcopal Health Charities
WHAT: The unveiling of extensive research on Houston’s child obesity problem and the
launching of the Houston–Harris County Youth Nutrition and Fitness Initiative.
Copies of the report will be available. A Spanish translator will be on hand.
WHEN: Wednesday, February 9, at 10:30 a.m.  Check-in begins at 10 a.m.
WHERE: The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital–The Denton A. Cooley Building Auditorium
INTERVIEW/PHOTO OPPS: Patricia Gail Bray, Ph.D.; Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D.; Christine McCullum, Ph.D., R.D.;  Elena Vergara, M.A. (bilingual); and Mona Eissa, M.D., Ph.D. (pediatrician).

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