Birmingham kids fighting obesity epidemic in unique way

Competition to develop community-based health programs culminates Thursday with celebration event.

After seven months in a unique competition that challenged 100 Birmingham-area kids to develop programs to target the obesity epidemic in their community, the winners are about to be crowned.

ccts_event_storyNow in its second year, the Healthy Change in Your Community Challenge kicked off in September 2011 with five groups of children ages 7-13 participating. Each group learned about the science of health and nutrition, then designed and implemented its own community-based health project. The children will share their projects with parents, friends and community partners 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 10, 2012, at the McWane Science Center, 200 19th St. North.

Alabama ranks as the second most obese state in the nation. About 17 percent of children and adolescents nationwide ages 2-19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Healthy Challenge, which projects hope to inspire change in health and wellness among residents of greater Birmingham, including Smithfield, Collegeville and Fairfield, lasted nine months and included activities such as a Nutrition Boot Camp sleepover at McWane Science Center, a series of monthly mentoring and educational programs and start-up funds for student projects.

The Healthy Challenge represents a partnership between McWane Science Center, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Center for Clinical and Translational Science, One Great Community and the UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences to lower obesity rates and raise awareness of nutritional and exercise needs.

“By working together, we are increasing awareness of appropriate nutrition and exercise needs in order to decrease the rate of obesity in our community,” says Robert Kimberly, director of the UAB CCTS and senior associated dean for research in UAB’s School of Medicine. “We will all benefit from the improvements in health status that we intend to achieve.”

The Healthy Change in Your Community Challenge is funded by the Robert R. Meyer Foundation and UAB’s One Great Community Project, a part of the CCTS.