With obesity levels in the United States at all-time highs, healthcare leaders are working together to address local concerns through “Collaborate for Healthy Weight,” a nationwide initiative led by the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The Ohio Healthy Weight Outcomes (OHWO) coalition is one of 10 teams from across the country participating in this ground-breaking program that will bring solutions to the local community and share strategies on a broader scale through innovative partnerships between primary care, public health and community organizations.
OHWO is a public-private, multi-sector coalition established in 2009 by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus City Schools, Columbus Public Health, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Action for Children and The Ohio State University Prevention Research Center. OHWO was formed to direct a coordinated and comprehensive effort to decrease the prevalence and consequences of childhood obesity. OHWO’s mission is to optimize the health of the pediatric population by ensuring all children achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle and reach their full potential.
OHWO members joined a select group of teams from coast-to-coast for the project’s first Learning Session in Washington, DC, in September. The meeting featured a keynote speech from Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mary Wakefield, PhD, RN, Administrator of the US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), also delivered opening remarks.
“We are thrilled to have been selected by NICHQ to participate in this initiative based on our solid commitment to achieving healthy weight and health equity in Columbus,” said Ihuoma Eneli, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a member of OHWO. “Our goal is to create ways to promote healthy weight for families and children, particularly in disadvantaged areas. We look forward to sharing what we learn in this project with communities in other areas of the county. We are thankful to NICHQ and HRSA for giving us the opportunity to get involved in this important work.”
The other teams participating in “Collaborate for Healthy Weight” represent communities in Arkansas, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New York, Virginia and Washington.
“Health doesn’t begin and end in the doctor’s office,” said Dr. Koh in his keynote speech. “It starts where people live, labor, learn, play and pray – in short, it happens in communities. I am very excited about this program, one of the first attempts to improve public health quality with respect to obesity.”
Dr. Wakefield also addressed participants and called obesity “a serious threat to America’s health.” She added, “You are engaged in a pioneering effort to expand prevention and treatment in your communities.”
The participating teams have met with national experts, exchanged ideas, and created plans for becoming best practice models for other communities to follow. OHWO is initially working on implementing a replicable multi-level demonstration obesity prevention and treatment project in the low-income area surrounding Nationwide Children’s Hospital through the hospital’s Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families project.
OHWO and the other teams will reconvene early in January 2012 for the second Leaning Session to discuss innovative strategies and to review results. Soon after that, NICHQ will select an additional 40 teams to join the project.
Charles Homer, MD, MPH, is NICHQ’s President and CEO. He said, “We are so proud of these teams that are laying the ground work to tackle this serious public health issue. As the project expands, OHWO and the other teams will make a huge difference in the lives of children and their families across the nation. NICHQ looks forward to supporting their collective efforts.” Founded in 1999, NICHQ is an independent, not-for-profit organization that seeks to improve child health by improving the systems responsible for the delivery of children’s healthcare.
The Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital is engaged in wide-ranging childhood obesity initiatives including participation in the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions’ obesity focus group which published a supplement in the September journal Pediatrics representing the first comprehensive look at how children’s hospitals are addressing childhood obesity. The Center offers a comprehensive approach to weight management with programs for prevention and treatment of overweight children, ranging from community-based intervention and physician private practices to intensive multidisciplinary lifestyle programs, medical assessment clinics and bariatric surgery. In addition, Nationwide Children’s has collaborated with Columbus Public Health on an “ACHIEVE” grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to enhance local communities’ abilities to develop and implement policy, systems and environment change strategies to prevent or manage health-risk factors focusing on pregnancy through birth to five years. The hospital was also one of the first businesses in the state to be awarded the Healthy Ohio Breastfeeding Friendly Employer Award by the Ohio Department of Health in September.