Waldo County General Hospital has been awarded a $50,000 grant for each of the next three years to help expand the 5-2-1-0 Let’s Go! program. It is a program championed by Dr. Tori Rogers of MaineHealth to help fight the epidemic of childhood obesity.
Over the past 30 years, the number of overweight children, ages 6 to 11, has nearly tripled. Rogers, who spoke Nov. 15 at the hospital’s annual Advisory Committee meeting, said approximately 30 percent of the children she sees in her pediatric practice in Saco are carrying extra weight. Statistics for Waldo County show that 36 percent of the students in RSU 20 are overweight or obese while that figure jumps to 47 percent in RSU 3. And for the first time, this generation is expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
5-2-1-0 stands for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day; no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time; at least 1 hour of physical activity per day and 0 soda or sugary drinks. She said one of the most overlooked parts of these may be the 0 soda and sugary drinks. For example, a bottle of Mountain Dew contains 16 teaspoons of sugar and is significantly larger than it used to be. Many fruit “juices” have less than 5 percent juice and lots of sugar, while even 100 percent apple juice has nearly 7 teaspoons of sugar. A raw apple has less than half of that, along with beneficial fiber.
The Let’s Go! portion of the program, which was piloted in the Portland area, also seeks to increase healthy eating and physical activity for youth and their families and works in six areas: healthcare, schools, after school, children, workplace and communities.
Dr. Rogers said the obesity epidemic got to this point through a number of factors, including:
• low-cost food has more calories;
• portion sizes have increased, such the size of bagels;
• soda and sugary drink sizes have increased;
• working families are dining out more;
• time spent in front of the television and computers is up;
• there have been cuts to recess and physical activity time in schools; and
• many communities are not made for walking and more people are living in the country, out of walking distance of essential services.
Dr. Rogers said the epidemic is costing us billions economically, in increased healthcare costs and even in National Security. She said the number one reason applicants fail to qualify for the military is obesity.
She said what works to help bring about change is focusing on prevention, creating walk-able communities, giving consistent messages about obesity, and policy changes—“small steps” that will add up, she said, adding, “We also need to stop rewarding people with food and incorporating physical activity into every day.” As of June 2010, she said 84,154 students in 263 schools and 38 childcare centers have been introduced to 5-2-1-0.
Among the changes that have been made at Waldo County General Hospital are removing soda and unhealthy snacks from the vending machines, offering fresh fruit and a salad bar at all meals, purchasing local foods to the extent practical and offering programs such as Journey to Health, which offers tips and classes to help community members get and stay healthy. Doctors at the hospital attended training on 5-2-1-0 last spring and a number of them committed to providing information about the program to their patients and family members.
For more information about 5210 Let’s Go Waldo!, please contact Barbara Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 930-2650.