The statistics are bad and getting worse — one in seven children in Kamloops is obese.
It’s a condition that can lead to serious, long-term medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
It also significantly increases the chances of adult obesity.
Kamloops families struggling to help severely overweight children now have another resource to turn to. The Shapedown B.C. program, which has operated out of Vancouver’s B.C. Children’s Hospital for eight years, is coming to Kamloops.
“People within the province felt that it was time to provide greater access rather than simply to people in Vancouver,” said Dr. Trent Smith, Kamloops Shapedown program medical director.
Children between the ages of six and 16 with a body mass index above the 97th percentile can enrol in the intensive, 10-week program.
The group treatment program, led by a dietitian and a mental health professional, will operate in partnership with the Kamloops YMCA during twice-weekly sessions at the downtown location.
Participating youth and their families can expect to learn to adopt healthy eating and physical activity habits.
Some of the sessions are geared toward both the child and parents, some are solely for the child and some solely for the parents.
The program is meant to address the myriad roots of the problem.
“The causes (of obesity) are as varied as the people that are affected,” said Smith. “One of the strengths of this program is that we view families as individual units and really try and tailor the program towards specific issues.”
Whereas some families struggle with healthy food provision, others are challenged by inadequate physical activity and for still others it’s a combination.
The intake process is nearly as intensive as the program in order to achieve those individual needs.
The group setting is also helpful, said Smith, because families can glean and discuss strategies among one another.
A medical referral is needed to enrol in Shapedown. Those without a family doctor can go to a walk-in clinic or a health-care centre staffed with nurse practitioners.
“What we’re really looking for are families who are showing a substantial readiness. There’s a big commitment to this program,” said Smith.
The payoff may be worth it, however.
Reports out of B.C. Children’s Hospital show that in the short term, the program works.
“There are some changes that occur in family lifestyles and body proportions,” said Smith.
Long-term successes haven’t yet been demonstrated, he said.
“One of the hopes of the program is we’ll be able to follow and reconnect with these families over the longer term.”
Kamloops families are invited to call the Kamloops Public Health Unit at 250-851-7300. For more information, go to www.interiorhealth.ca.