University of Washington nutritionists and preventive health experts are preparing to tackle a growing national epidemic -- obesity in adolescent women of color. They will join forces and resources with other health-care-- professionals from throughout the Northwest on April 13 and 14 to expand the Northwest Obesity Prevention Project into one capable of responding to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) national call to action.
"This is an epidemic that demands public health solutions," stressed Dr. Donna Johnson, a UW acting assistant professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine and member of the project's core founding group. Female teens of color are at higher risk than their white counterparts for developing the major medical consequences of obesity: diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The CDC published research in the Oct. 27, 1999 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that showed the greatest increase in obesity among the youngest age groups in a study that tracked changes from 1991 to 1998. It is estimated that 12.5 percent of all of America's youth between 6 and 17 are overweight. CDC studies also reveal that as many as 40 percent of the nation's high school students are not enrolled in any type of physical education class.
"We will promote the concept of healthy, vibrant, young women and move away from an excessive focus on weight, size, and body image," emphasized Johnson, a practicing public health nutritionist. Experts in the fields of nutrition, behavioral sciences, sociology, physical activity, and health education will come together at the conference to discuss approaches that work with teens. Conference participants will develop model programs that focus on physical activity, cooking and nutritional education, minimization of sedentary activities, and culturally appropriate counseling.
The project's long-term goal is to improve the overall health of this at-risk population and to prevent the future health consequences of obesity. Community partners will implement the project's recommendations and provide vital support for adolescent girls in community settings. These partners may include community health clinics, tribal councils and after-school programs.
The conference is not open to the public, but project coordinators will post the conference proceedings on the Internet. Compiled data, recommendations, and relevant literature will be available at http://depts.
The Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health for Region X funds the Northwest Obesity Prevention Project.