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A Weight Loss Program That Works

October 3, 2011

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Latino youth under 18 are a fast-growing segment of the U.S. population, in more ways than one. They have a 25 percent higher incidence of being overweight or obese than the general youth population in the United States, and along with that comes a higher risk of diabetes. But an innovative program in New Haven, focusing on low-income inner-city kids, has been successful over two years in helping them shed pounds.

The program, Bright Bodies, was originally developed by Yale researcher Mary Savoye for young people seen in her diabetes clinic. She says the kids learn about triggers to eating.

"If the kid has a bad day at school and they walk in the door, the first thing they may want to do is go over to the refrigerator. And it's the same thing with adults, as well."

They also learn about alternative behaviors and exercise, and receive information on healthy eating.

Savoye explains how the kids change their behavior.

"If the child feels like, 'Oh, this is the time that I normally start eating, let me do something that I like to do, like maybe I would call a friend at this time, or maybe I would go outside and shoot some hoops.'"

One of the places Bright Bodies is being implemented is John Martinez School in Fair Haven, with pupils between seven and sixteen years old, divided into groups by age.

Pediatric nurse-practitioner Nancy Dalrymple of Fair Haven Community Health Center, which runs Bright Bodies at the school, says whole families are involved in the program, which meets three times a week.

"It's a very non-judgmental group and, over all, I do think that the kids enjoy being in the program, and are self-motivated."

Success, a full year after the original program ended, was documented in a new study in Pediatrics magazine that measured a drop in body-mass index and in the percentage of body fat, and a rise in the pupils' self-esteem. The program is sponsored at Martinez School by the Connecticut Health Foundation.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT