For parents working long hours, leaving children home alone is not an uncommon occurrence. While teenagers are often more than capable of taking care of their younger siblings, certain decisions, such as nutrition and exercise choices, are not always made a priority.
Such was the case for Gwen, who would leave her eldest daughter, Miracle, home to look after Tyroniece, her youngest. Left home alone, Miracle and Tyroniece made similar choices to kids their age – picking ‘fun’ activities such as video games over those that are physically active.
In making these choices, children like Miracle and Tyroniece put themselves at a higher risk for health issues associated with lack of physical activity. These issues can include childhood obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, bone and joint problems and more. Additionally, children from low-income families are disproportionately being affected by these issues, as the families cannot afford the cost of preventative programs.
With a $20,000 grant provided by The NASCAR Foundation’s Speediatrics Children’s Fund, the Dover YMCA was able to provide such a program to Gwen and her family – Healthy Weight and Your Child.
Healthy Weight and Your Child is a 24- session evidence-based program for children with obesity, designed for children between 7-13 years old with a body mass index of 95% or higher. Focus is placed on nutrition education and physical activity in hopes of providing new skills to encourage families to make positive changes. Because of this, families learn how to live a healthier lifestyle long term.
First implemented in 2017, Healthy Weight and Your Children was initially offered for free, but when resources were no longer available, costs prohibited registration. With funding provided by The NASCAR Foundation, 60 families, including Gwen and her daughters, have enrolled in the program so far in 2019.
“We learned that reducing the sugar in our diets can help with weight loss and decrease the behavior issues the girls have been having,” Gwen said. “Miracle and Tyroniece will remember this summer forever. The program changed our lives!”
By removing cost as a barrier to the program, targeted youth have demonstrated weight loss, increased physical activity outside of sessions and the ability to choose healthier nutrition options. Families of these individuals also report they have become more physically active, have a greater understanding of portions and the importance of providing healthier nutrition options.
Through this partnership through the Speediatrics Children’s Fund, The NASCAR Foundation is helping children and their families get on the road to a happier, healthier life. This fall, funding will continue to support the program as an additional 60 families begin their pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, changing their lives for the better.