More than one third of Alabama children ages 10-17 range from overweight to obese, exceeding the national average, according to the 2007 Kids Count report.

Michele Montgomery (left), Marti Rice (center) and Anne Turner-Henson helped organize the upcoming child-health update examining “Childhood Obesity: Trends, Treatments and Troubles” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, June 19 in School of Nursing. 
How bad is that?  Studies reveal overweight and obese children are more likely to develop early-onset adult morbidities including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and that is one of many topics the speakers will address at a program this week at the UAB School of Nursing, says Marti Rice, Ph.D., professor of nursing.

“Because of the early onset of these adult morbidities it now is being predicted that this generation of children’s lifespan may not be as long as their parents,” Rice says. “To compound the problem, these are difficult conditions to treat because there’s not an overwhelming amount of evidence about what really works.”

UAB’s Leadership and Education in Child-Health Nursing program is presenting a child-health update examining “Childhood Obesity: Trends, Treatments and Troubles” from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, June 19 in School of Nursing rooms G023 and G024.

Four speakers will be featured:

  • Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and renowned obesity researcher
  • Laura Hayman, associate dean for research and professor of nursing at the University of Massachusetts
  •  Elizabeth Reifsnider, associate dean for research in the School of Nursing at the University of Texas in Galveston
  • Bonnie Spear, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at UAB

Focus of the program:

The Leadership and Education in Child-Health Nursing training program focuses on training the next generation of child-health nursing faculty leaders. This program provides stipend and tuition support for doctoral students in nursing.  Individuals interested in the program should contact program director Anne Turner-Henson, Ph.D., at or call 996-5202 for more information.  
Registration for the event is $30 and includes lunch and CEU credits for nurses, physicians, dieticians and social workers. Contact Corrie Paeglow at 996-5202 or to register.

Lifestyle change needed
Nationally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are considered overweight or obese; for children 12 to 19 years old, the percent is 17.

Many different factors are contributing to childhood obesity. One factor is bad genes. Another is the lack of a proper diet and nutrition in schools. Lack of exercise also plays a key role.

“The good news is many schools in Alabama are looking at the diet and nutrition standards in its school lunches,” Rice says. “Alabama also is a state that has maintained their physical education classes while some states have cut out PE or have minimal amounts.

“But educating the whole family and getting children and parents to exercise is difficult.”

Lack of time is one reason families cite for lack of exercise and proper nutrition. Many families are constantly shuttling children to their various activities. That means eating fast-food fare and no time for real family exercise.  The only way to change that, Rice says, is for families to commit themselves to a lifestyle change.

“That primarily includes diet, exercise and stress reduction,” Rice says. “It’s kind of like brushing your teeth; it has to be incorporated in your lifestyle early on and you can’t vary on it. That can’t be what you let go when you’re overworked, overstressed or pressed for time.”

Rice says the recessionary economy may give families a chance to reassess their diet and exercise routines.

“We don’t have as much disposable income, and parents may not be able to sign their kids up to do as much,” she says.

“Maybe kids will have more time to run and play outside, and that can help prevent unhealthy weight gain.”