Meadville Tribune

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April 5, 2013

Local obesity task force struggles

Lack of manpower, funds and commitment stifle success


MEADVILLE — Passport to a Healthier You

BEAM’s last initiative, “Passport to a Healthier You” ran from April 14 to July 14, 2012. It was intended to coordinate the efforts and events already organized by local groups promoting nutrition and exercise.

It consisted of 13 events. Participating families registered and answered a pre-program survey. To receive a grocery store gift card incentive, families had to complete 12 events throughout the program.

In addition to any of the scheduled events, children could take part in outside activities for credit, such as food journals, a recipe contest or activities OK’d by a coach or guardian.

A total of 91 children from 54 families registered for the program. Of these families, 51 completed a pre-program survey. Forty-four of the registered children opted to have their height and weight measured to calculate their BMI.

“The passport was not intended to address and prevent childhood obesity,” Waggett said. “It was just a test to see if we could incentivize parents and I don’t know that it proved that or not because I don’t know if the design was good enough from a scientific perspective.”

The program did not have a consistent survey, as the long lines on launch day caused the BEAM team to shorten the original questionnaire from 30 questions to 13. Waggett said the survey primarily addressed attitude and behaviors, but it should have covered more on knowledge and financial demographics. BEAM was also challenged by a lack of funds and volunteers.

“It was so tiring for the vast majority of people who volunteered their time that five months had to pass before they were willing to say that they still thought this was an important effort,” Waggett said.

But she pointed out that the lack of power behind the Passport program is reflective of a larger problem for BEAM.

“As important as it is, task forces are always put on top of other obligations, and that’s one of the challenges of this,” she said. “Until it’s a mandate at every level, it’s very difficult to ensure that this is a real community based priority.”

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