Texas Children’s and two outside agencies are taking the initiative to defeat childhood obesity in the Greater Houston area.

Backed by the City of Houston, Texas Children’s, Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) today unveiled a partnership to help Houston-area children develop healthy lifestyles. The initiative is only one part of Texas Children’s comprehensive strategy designed to fight childhood obesity, with other community collaborations to be announced in the near future.

“We have a medical crisis on our hands,” said Dr. William Klish, a nationally-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “Children are developing adult on-set diseases such as type 2 diabetes, steatohepatitis (fatty liver), hypertension (high-blood pressure), gallstones, osteoarthritis and sleep apnea. We cannot afford to point fingers and try to figure out who is to blame. We must develop programs to stop this epidemic from spreading.”

One in five American children are overweight or obese according to the National Institutes of Health – a number that has increased by fifty percent over the last two decades. In Texas alone, 40 percent of children fall into these categories.

“Working with Texas Children’s, and with funding provided by the U.S. Department of

Education, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department created a program called KidFIT! to teach children about proper nutrition and physical activity,” said Joe Turner, director of HPARD. “As part of this initiative, several HPARD locations will become referral sites where physicians can send their patients encouraging them to find a youth sports program or physical activity they enjoy. The KidFIT! program will be administered at three community centers.”

A $334,515 federal grant supported by District 8 Congressman Kevin Brady will provide the funds necessary for technology that will help physicians identify children for treatment and also track their progress.

Physicians may refer patients to three HPARD sites free of charge. Other HPARD sites will offer free youth sports activities.

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