Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 25, 2013

Team gnZ fighting childhood obesity

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — A healthy diet and physical activity are key to battling obesity, especially among youth, and successfully fighting that health issue is going to take the entire community.

That's why Cumberland Medical Center has partnered with area businesses, nonprofit organizations and the Cumberland County School System to form Team gnZ.

"We want to get kids up and involved and get them moving," said Robin Abram with CMC.

Team gnZ stands for Generation Z, the children born from 2000 to the present.

Team gnZ has committed to a three-year program to address childhood obesity in this community.

"We have community events planned that are kid-oriented and will encourage kids to come out and participate and just get off the couch," Abram said. "The goal is exercise and movement disguised as playful fun."

The first event is a Battle of the Bands at Stone Memorial High School. That will narrow the field of bands to two, with the final two playing at the city of Crossville's Fourth of July celebration for top honors.

Other events include a mud run and a color run.

The hospital identified the need for a childhood obesity initiative during its community needs assessment last year, which found the community ranked obesity as the no. 1 health concern in the community, followed by exercise and lifestyle choices at no. 2.

"It's not just in Cumberland County," Abram said. "This is a concern across the nation."

In Tennessee, the percentage of obese and overweight children ages 10 to 17 is 36.5 percent, the fourth highest in the nation. Obesity in children ages 2 to 4 has also been increasing, with childhood obesity leading to children being more likely to be obese in adolescence and adulthood, developing diabetes, hypertension, asthma and sleep apnea. But there is good news. The percentage of school-age children who are overweight or obese dropped from 40.9 percent in 2007-'08 to 39 percent in 2008-'09.

In Cumberland County, the Coordinated School Health program has conducted a fitness survey for every elementary student for the past six years. This past year, 42 percent of the students were considered overweight or obese; .038 percent had high blood pressure; and 1,343 had a Body Mass Index that was high for their age and height. These screenings are also done at the end of the school year.

Team gnZ will be working with the school system on screenings, activities and recording data, with events to help keep kids active through the spring and summer. Team gnZ also plans to provide mini-grants for schools that will be used to increase cardiovascular health or strength training programs for the entire student body and to improve healthy eating. The group also hopes to help other organizations in the community network ideas and publicize events, and all organizations are encouraged to remember to offer kid-friendly activities with their events.

"We'll follow the kids at least two years and as they grow up, we hope to see their habits change," Abram said.

To learn more about Team gnZ, or how your organization can help, contact Abram at rabram@cmchealthcare.org.