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Vol. LX, No. 24
November 28, 2008

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NICHD Collaborates with Women’s Group on Children’s Weight

NICHD recently held a 1-day instructional session in health education for more than two dozen regional leaders from the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).

Attendees were instructed in how to present—and teach others to present—two NIH health education programs that help children maintain a healthy weight.

The programs emphasize improving food choices, increasing physical activity and reducing screen time. Adapted by NICHD from existing NIH educational materials, the programs have been tailored to meet the needs of NCNW participants.

NCNW is composed of 39 national affiliated African-American women’s organizations comprising 4 million members. As reflected on its web site, NCNW seeks to “lead, develop and advocate for women of African descent as they support their families and communities.

” A total of 31 regional, or cluster, leaders attended the session. When they return home, they will present each program in their communities, then train other facilitators to do the same. The event marked the beginning of a collaboration between NIH and NCNW to deliver health education materials to the community.

“The professionals at NIH are working with us,” said Dr. Dorothy Height, chair and president emerita of NCNW. “We have the volunteers who know their communities and can reach into them to carry the health message.”

“All groups of America’s children have been affected by childhood overweight,” said NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox. “African-American children are at a slightly higher risk than other groups, and so we appreciate the NCNW helping us get our information to the families who can benefit from it.”

She added that one out of every six American children ages 2 to 19 is overweight, and one out of five African-American children is considered overweight.

Dr. Pierre Vigilance, director of the D.C. health department, also spoke at the event. He said the problem of obesity in the African-American community is complex; solving it will require changes in both society and individual attitudes. For example, people in poorer neighborhoods may lack the extra money required to purchase many health foods. People may also find it difficult to prepare healthy meals after a long day, and often opt for high-calorie fast foods.

Dr. Dorothy Height (l), president emerita of the National Council on Negro Women, recently met with Dr. Yvonne Maddox, NICHD deputy director.
Dr. Dorothy Height (l), president emerita of the National Council on Negro Women, recently met with Dr. Yvonne Maddox, NICHD deputy director.

Attendees were instructed in Energize Our NCNW Families: Parent Program, which provides parents and caregivers practical, research-based information to help their families maintain a healthy weight. They also received training in Media-Smart Youth: The Essentials, a program that teaches youngsters ages 11 to 13 how to analyze and understand media messages about nutrition and physical activity so they can make healthy choices for themselves.

The programs are adapted from curricula offered in NIH’s We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition) education program. We Can! is a highly adaptable, science-based program for families and communities to help children maintain a healthy weight. More than 900 community sites across the U.S., and in nine other countries, are providing We Can! activities. Information on the program is available at

Each month until May, representatives from NICHD will use virtual meeting software to gather online with cluster leaders to provide assistance as they implement the programs in their communities and recruit and train others to do the same.

Deborah Tucker Barrow, a cluster leader from New York City, said that when she returns home, she will set up an instructional session for representatives from each of the 22 NCNW sections in her state. Each section leader will train 20 or so additional members from their respective groups, who will train still more members, and so on, until a substantial number of NCNW members in the area are trained in the curricula.

“This is a good start,” she said. “Hopefully, we can begin to fight obesity among all children, but especially in our community. Initially, we’ll be working with the African-American ethnic group, but we’re not going to turn any child away. 

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