Commentary: Progress on children’s diets in West Virginia

By Dan Heyman

One of the doctors heading up an effort to address childhood obesity in West Virginia says she’s seeing some progress. Dr. Jamie Jeffrey, medical director for Healthy Kids Pediatric Weight Management Program at the Charleston Area Medical Center, said childhood obesity grew so quickly in the state, it almost became more than families and communities could deal with. However, she said, efforts like the Keys 4 Healthy Kids program are having an effect.  “In their community, with their church, with their friends, at the school with their PTA. Reminds me of ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ I really see that happening,” Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey listed simple solutions folks can fit into their lives, like keeping a veggie tray in the fridge or getting out into the woods more. She says the state has boosted farmers markets, and there’s been a good response to the “five, two, one, zero” formula.  “If you can just remember just five, two, one, zero – five fruits and vegetables a day, two hours or less of screen time, one hour of physical activity and zero sugar-sweetened beverages – then you’re one step closer to the health that you want to have,” she advised.

The schools have done a lot, she added, reducing the sugary drinks available from machines and improving the food they serve. “They’ve increased the amount of whole grains; they’ve increased the amount of scratch cooking and added salad bars to the majority of schools – and hopefully, local produce.”  Jeffrey said she is particularly glad to see the farm-to-schools movement. “Especially a lot of the rural areas are doing an excellent job at getting the fresh produce from the local farmers into the school cafeteria,” she noted.

Keys 4 Health Kids seeks to revamp neighborhoods so they can offer improved physical activity and play opportunities. It also promotes access to affordable, healthy foods. Nationally, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the last 10 years.

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