On October 4 and 5th, 2011, over 300 physicians, educators, policy makers, civil servants, and active community members gathered in Richmond for the second annual Weight of the State Conference to address childhood obesity. The Conference was hosted by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and Prevention Connections and was a showcase for the latest approaches in childhood obesity prevention and control. Virginia's First Lady, Maureen McDonnell, welcomed attendees Tuesday morning with enthusiastic support and commendation for the efforts of all involved to rid the state of childhood obesity.
Keynote speakers included Terry O'Toole from the CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity and Margo Wooten, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Research findings by the Schroeder Center for Health Policy were featured in two presentations by executive staff of the School Health Initiative Program (SHIP) serving Williamsburg James City County Public Schools.
Tammy Underwood and Janice Kailos discussed SHIP's Wellness Integration Program (WIP) which seeks to incorporate physical activity and "brain breaks" into classroom learning. WIP is based on research findings that show students perform better academically when their bodies are also engaged and active. Pam Dannon and Susan Stewart discussed SHIP's popular after-school cooking clubs. Student cooking clubs seek to provide nutrition education to students, staff, and families in a fun environment where kids learn from their cafeteria manager how to prepare healthy, delicious meals.
The Schroeder Center is the lead evaluator for SHIP. Both presentations shared Schroeder Center evaluation techniques and results along with the intervention methods to illustrate the improvements in child and parent behaviors that result of SHIP interventions. Key findings from the Schroeder Center evaluations show improvements in children's fruit and vegetable consumption and parents' support for school-based programs that affect their child's health and school performance. Schroeder Center studies also provide evidence that wellness integration strategies can increase physical activity in the classroom.
These and other evaluation results provide valuable information as to the efficacy of SHIP's interventions. SHIP encourages other school districts to adopt their intervention models in an attempt to promote healthy behaviors among all of Virginia's school children.
This year's Weight of the State Conference confirmed Virginia's commitment to fighting childhood obesity. Presenters in over 20 educational sessions shared new tactics and interventions used in their communities to prevent or address obesity in children and adolescents. Presenters also stressed the need for community and family involvement and encouraged partnerships among schools, healthcare providers, funders, and business to better tackle the growing epidemic. In the state of Virginia more than one in three children is overweight or obese.