Obesity is a growing problem among children, but the Harris County Hospital District has put in place a program that educates entire families.

While some children are spending their summer indoors playing video games, hundreds of Houston-area kids and their parents are learning the skills and knowledge to make healthy lifestyle decisions.

This summer, 11 of the Harris County Hospital District’s 15 community health centers are offering the nine-week Childhood Nutrition and Exercise Program. The program takes a family approach with the unique twist that requires parents to attend with their child.

“We want to touch the whole family. Parents are the decision makers, and if we get them on board with making healthy decisions, the whole family benefits,” says Karla Phillips, health educator, People’s Health Center, one of the participating centers from the Harris County Hospital District. During the first hour of the two-hour class, health educators involve the group in activities and discussion about healthy decisions ranging from planning healthy meals to reading food labels to using the food guide pyramid.

The second hour is dedicated to exercise.

“We play soccer, basketball, run around the track or even play games with a giant parachute. The key is to get the kids and their parents moving,” says Yesenia Mora, senior health educator, Baytown Health Center, also a participating center from the Harris County Hospital District. Several children and their parents have lost weight while in the program, but health educators stress that they’re focused on teaching the family how to make healthier lifestyle decisions.

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