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Fighting Fat in Kids

April 26, 2011
Plain English Version

Schools in Portland, Maine are trying a new program to lower the weight of young students. The program follows the 5-2-1-0 rule:

  • Five servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Two hours or less of TV or computer watching
  • One hour of exercise
  • Zero surgery fruits drinks

Portland’s “Let’s Go” program is trying to show how changes in behavior can help youngsters lose weight. It is difficult and costly to measure such changes.

Childhood obesity rates tripled since the early 1980’s.  They appear to be leveling off. Still, nearly a third of children and teens are overweight. About 17% of this group is obese. Experts say they hope things are turning around, but the epidemic of obesity is not yet in reverse.

To learn how to make the program work the federal government gave $257 million to 39 communities. In Portland, local interests gave $3.7 million to promote the 5-2-1-0 program. The idea is to change homes and schools so that fatty, sugary foods are not close by and it is easy to exercise.

Let’s Go! grants in the Portland area have gone to a day nursery to buy new pots and pans and a food processor. Elementary schools have set up activity rooms with fitness equipment, snowshoes and exercise balls, for kids to sit on at their desks.

In a telephone survey of 800 parents in the Portland area, parents reported 28% of children had adopted 5-2-1-0 in 2009 compared with 22% in 2007. The researchers say adopting healthier habits is a sign that the program is effective and may lead to a reduction in obesity.

Let’s Go! is now in at least 345 schools, child-care centers, medical practices and after-school programs across Maine. Communities and medical practices in other states have adopted it.

The Wall Street Journal



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