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Local elementary school to feature health program

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By The Staff

This spring, University of Florida faculty and students, in conjunction with the Levy County Public Health Department, will conduct a no-cost healthy lifestyle program for children and families in Levy County.

Family Lifestyle Intervention Project for Kids, or FLIP for Kids, is led by David Janicke, Ph.D., and Ellen Lopez, Ph.D., assistant professors in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, and is supported by a contract from the Florida Area Health Education Network.

"Children are eating more and more meals away from home, spending less and less time engaged in physical activity, and spending more time watching television and playing video games," Janicke said.

More than 30 percent of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Children and adults who are overweight are at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

"Given the scope and seriousness of obesity in America and the limited access to services for children in rural settings, there is a pressing need for intervention and prevention programs for families in medically underserved rural areas that help families adopt healthy dietary habits and increase physical activity," Janicke said. "Many families want to develop healthier patterns of eating and exercise that may positively impact health, fitness and self-esteem, but making these types of changes is often hard."

The FLIP for Kids program is designed to help children and parents modify their dietary and physical activity in order to promote a healthy lifestyle, positive self-image and effective weight management. The program helps families work together to learn how to manage real-life situations and make gradual, modest changes in their lifestyle.

"Providing support for families is a crucial component of the program," Janicke said. "An important emphasis in our program is helping parents and children support each other to make positive changes."

The program is delivered in a group format, with approximately eight to 12 families participating. Children and parents will meet in separate but simultaneous groups during each group session.

"The group format is also a very positive way to build a strong support network," Janicke said. "Children will have a chance to prepare and sample healthy snacks as well as engage in group-based physical activity at each group session."

The two-month, group-based program will start next month with weekly sessions at Williston Elementary School. A second two-month program will be held this fall, mostly likely in either Bronson or Chiefland. The program is available to children between the ages of 6 and 12, and their parents, regardless of weight status. To participate, children must have a parent or legal guardian who is also willing to attend weekly group sessions. There is no cost to participate in this program; however, space is limited. Families interested in participating or who have questions should call 1-866-673-9623.