Reuters Health is reporting a new program developed by the U.S. government that is tackling the obesity epidemic by helping “tween” girls and their parents make small but important changes to build a healthier lifestyle.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health launched BodyWorks in 2006 by training instructors in the hopes that they would bring the program home to their communities. All materials are provided free, but communities must find the resources to pay trainers and a place to offer the program.
Girls 9 to 13 years old who are overweight or obese are referred to BodyWorks through their physician, or by word of mouth. Parents and caregivers attend 10 weekly 90-minute sessions, and girls are expected to show up for at least three. The goal is to give parents and caregivers “hands-on tools to make small behavior changes to prevent obesity and help maintain a healthier weight,” according to the BodyWorks Web site.
To me, the attractive aspect of this program is that, like my 8-Week Family Fitness Program and SuperSized Kids website, it addresses the whole family, and the whole environment in the household.
There are now 1,700 BodyWorks instructors based in 43 states, according to Dr. Wanda Jones, the director of the Office on Women’s Health and deputy assistant secretary for women’s health at HHS. About 700 parents and caregivers have completed the program.
Like my 8-Week Family Fitness Program and SuperSized Kids website, the goal is not for girls to lose weight, but for families as a whole to begin making healthier choices at the grocery store, to become more active and to spend less time in sedentary activities like watching TV or playing computer games.
HHS will roll out a version of BodyWorks for boys in the next few months, and is also working on culturally appropriate adaptations of the program for Hispanics and Native Americans. They also expect to have completed an evaluation of BodyWorks’ effectiveness in raising awareness of healthy habits this fall.