Children’s Hospital awarded $375,000 grant from BlueCross to support new childhood obesity center

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation has awarded Erlanger Health System Foundations a $375,000 grant for the development and operation of the T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital Childhood Healthy Eating and Active Living (C-HEAL) Center in partnership with the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

“The C-HEAL Center has two key components,” said Children’s Hospital at Erlanger CEO, Dr. Alan Kohrt.  “The first is early intervention which involves working with regional pediatricians and community organizations to recognize the warning signs for overweight/obesity in children and providing steps to prevent further complications.  The second involves multi-disciplinary treatment by establishing the new center at Children’s Hospital.”

The center, which will open January 2015, will be staffed by a pediatrician with expertise in childhood obesity management, registered dietician, and care coordinator/community health navigator for children who have not responded to early intervention efforts and/or have co-morbidities.  The team will focus on modifying behavior related to eating habits, activity level, and family involvement.  Pediatric subspecialists in hypertension, nephrology, endocrinology, cardiology and other specialties will also be associated with the center for ease in making referrals and coordinating care.

“We are extremely pleased to have this latest partnership with BlueCross BlueShield,” said Erlanger Health System President and CEO Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE.  “By providing this service to the children in our region, we believe the involvement of area pediatricians and the center will have a positive impact not only on the children but also residents in the surrounding communities.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.  Children who are obese are more likely than their peers to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  They are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems.

“Left untreated, obesity is likely to continue into adulthood and increase risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Joani Jack, C-HEAL Program Director.  “In Tennessee, 15.2% of children are overweight and 14.5% are obese.  The numbers are also similar for adolescents with 16.1% overweight and 15.8% obese.”

Research has shown that no single intervention is effective in treating childhood obesity.  Communities need access to multiple strategies that are delivered constantly and supported by multiple sectors.  C-HEAL Center will work to close the gap in providing education and prevention, facilitate the identification of at-risk infants and children, and provide the coordinated and community/family-focused source for specialized care.

“Our review committee unanimously approved the proposal to assist with funding to develop a healthy eating and active living center at Children’s Hospital,” said Manager of Community Relations and Foundations Dawn Weber. “It supports our Shape the State initiatives to tackle obesity in Tennessee’s youth, and we’re excited to see its positive impact on the Chattanooga community.”