Wednesday, June 1, 2005
NHLBI Communications Office
HHS Secretary Leavitt, NIH
Director Tell Parents: Together, ‘We Can!’
Prevent Childhood Obesity
Federal Government, National Organizations,
Join Together to Help Parents Improve Children’s Health
Washington, DC — HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt
today announced the launch of We Can!, Ways to Enhance
Children’s Activity & Nutrition, a national education
program from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help prevent
overweight and obesity among youth ages 8-13. We Can!
provides resources and community-based programs for parents, caregivers,
and youth that focus on behaviors to encourage healthy eating,
increase physical activity, and reduce sedentary time.
“Overweight in children is clearly a public health crisis.
Sixteen percent of children in the United States are carrying
around excess weight – that’s 9 million children who
are at increased risk for chronic illnesses such as heart disease,
diabetes, and asthma,” Secretary Leavitt said today at the
Environmental Solutions to Obesity in America’s Youth conference
organized by the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental
“We need to act now to prevent obesity in our children,”
said NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D. “Obesity is a high
priority of the NIH. This year, we will spend about $440 million
on a wide range of research on this important problem.”
The science-based We Can! program helps parents teach
their children to:
- Eat a sufficient amount of a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Choose small portions at home and at restaurants
- Eat fewer high-fat foods and energy-dense foods that are
low in nutrient value such as French fries, bacon, and doughnuts
- Substitute water or fat-free or low-fat milk for sweetened
beverages such as sodas
- Engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity
on most, preferably all, days of the week
- Reduce recreational screen time to no more than two hours
There is new evidence that teaching children and their parents
to make lifestyle changes like the ones proposed in We Can!
can have an impact. A study published online today in the journal
Pediatrics shows that children ages 8 to 10 who were enrolled
in a behaviorally oriented nutrition education program with their
parents and were taught to follow a diet low in saturated fat
and dietary cholesterol reported switching from calorie-dense
and high-fat foods to foods that were lower in saturated fat,
total fat, and dietary cholesterol. The children in the intervention
adopted significantly better dietary habits over several years
compared to their peers who received only general nutritional
information. The results are from an ancillary study of the NHLBI-supported
Dietary Intervention Study in Children (DISC).
“DISC demonstrates that children and their families can learn
to enjoy healthy foods and to be selective about their food choices
– habits that will hopefully stay with them throughout their
lives,” said NHLBI Director Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D. “The
study also showed that children and their families need the right
tools to help them make positive lifestyle changes.”
The new We Can! tools include a parents’ handbook
available in Spanish or English as well as a six-lesson curriculum
offered through community-based sites. Tested curricula for children
are also available for community organizations. In addition, a
new online resource provides parents, caregivers, communities,
national partners, and media up-to-date health information and
tips on maintaining a healthy weight for families.
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS., also
spoke at the Environmental Solutions to Obesity Conference about
the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity throughout
life, beginning in childhood. Dr. Carmona noted that the 2005
agenda for the Office of the Surgeon General is “The Year
of the Healthy Child.” Dr. Carmona said, “As parents,
we must lead by example. As a father, I work hard to teach my
children about the importance of physical activity and healthy
eating by not only talking with them but also setting the example
for them. In fact, my kids and I often work out together. The
behaviors that children learn from us now will last a lifetime.
We must encourage our children to enjoy healthy foods and to be
physically active for at least 60 minutes a day -- not only through
sports, but also by doing simple things like taking the stairs,
riding their bikes, and just getting out and playing.”
Founding partners for We Can!include Action for Healthy
Kids, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Association
for State and Territorial Public Health Nutrition Directors, Black
Entertainment Television (BET) Foundation, the International Food
Information Council Foundation, North American Association for
the Study of Obesity, Parents’Action for Children, the President’s
Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and Univision. Supporting
organizations include the American College of Sports Medicine,
the Produce for Better Health Foundation, and the University of
Michigan Health System.
More than 35 communities across the nation have already committed
to implement We Can! programs with parents and children.
Thirteen intensive community sites have been selected to receive
training and to participate in thorough evaluations of the We
• State of Alabama, Coalition led by the Department of Public
• Tamarac, Fla., City Parks and Recreation Department
• Roswell/Athens, Ga., Roswell Recreation and Parks Department
and Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services
• Gary, Ind., Youth Services Bureau/Parks Recreation
• South Bend, Ind., City Parks and Recreation Department
• Montgomery County, Md., County Recreation Department
• Boston, Mass., Boston Public Health Commission
• Pittsfield, Mass., Operation Better Start, Berkshire Health
• Springfield, Mo., Springfield-Greene County Park Board
• Las Vegas/Henderson, Nev., University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Department of Nutrition Sciences and Cities of Las Vegas and Henderson
• Benton County, Ore., Benton County Health Department
• Lane County, Ore., Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth
• Temple, Texas, The Children's Hospital at Scott &
More than 22 other community sites have committed to use and distribute
We Can! program materials. NIH has designed We Can!
so that local civic groups, parent groups, churches and others
can adapt and use the program materials from the We Can!
We Can! was developed by the National Heart, Lung, and
Blood Institute (NHLBI) and is being promoted in collaboration
with three other NIH Institutes -- the National Institute of Diabetes
and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development, and the National Cancer Institute
-- as well as several national private sector organizations.
More information on We Can! is available at http://wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov.
To request a free We Can! parent handbook in English
or Spanish, call toll-free 866-35-WE CAN (866-359-3226).
To arrange an interview with Dr. Nabel, contact the NHLBI Communications
Office at (301) 496-4236 or email email@example.com.
To interview Dr. Zerhouni, contact the NIH Office of Communications
and Public Liaison at (301) 496-5787. To interview Dr. Carmona,
contact the HHS Press Office at (202) 690-6343.
NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the
Federal Government’s primary agency for biomedical and behavioral
research. NIH is a component of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. NHLBI press releases and other materials including
information about heart disease, obesity, and related health issues
are online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
NOTE TO MEDIA: See companion release in separate
distribution: “New NHLBI-Sponsored
Study Shows Programs Can Teach Children to Eat Healthier.”
For broadcast media: A bites/b-roll package including
sound bites from Surgeon General Carmona (English and Spanish),
NIH Director Zerhouni, and NHLBI Director Nabel and footage of
families, foods, and We Can! resources will be fed on
the following days and times:
- Tuesday, May 31, 2:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m Eastern time (1430 to 1445)and
Wednesday, June 1, 10:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.
Satellite Name: IA-6 (formerly Telstar 6) C-Band
Transponder: 24H Ch. 24
Audio: 6.2 & 6.8
Downlink Frequency: 4180 MHz
For general questions regarding the newsfeed, contact Maureen at
800-766-1711, ext. 239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For interviews, contact the NHLBI Communications Office at 301-496-4236.
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