New Pilot Program Launched to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Community-based initiative will engage parents and child care providers of pre-school age children

April 15, 2009

Boston, Mass. -- Boston Mayor Thomas Menino today joined Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun, Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, andJames Mandell, MD, CEO of Children's Hospital Boston, to announce the launch of Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures (HKHF), a community-based early childhood pilot initiative aimed at preventing childhood obesity. The purpose of the program is to engage early child care providers and caregivers to promote healthy eating and increased physical activity among pre-school age children living in the Fenway, Mission Hill, South End, Jamaica Plain and Lower Roxbury communities of Boston.

"Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures is a wonderful example of the impact that partnerships among our city's colleges and universities, businesses and hospitals can have on the community," said Mayor Menino. "I am grateful to Northeastern, the Red Sox and Children's Hospital Boston for their joint commitment to the health and education of the kids and families in our neighborhoods."

A recent study published in the April 2009 issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that 1 in 5 American four-year olds is overweight. In Boston, one third of high school students are overweight or obese, with Latino and African American students having higher rates than whites. HKHF aims to support citywide efforts to break the cycle of childhood obesity, which has been linked to a host of chronic diseases later in life.

HKHF will be working with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Head Start providers in the aforementioned Boston neighborhoods to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of healthy eating and increased physical activity among pre-school age children. A series of informational workshop sessions on nutrition and physical activity will be held for ABCD Head Start staff at four pilot sites (Parker Hill/Fenway, Native American Council, Jamaica Plain and Roxbury/Lenox Head Starts), and bi-lingual physical activity and healthy eating education workshops will be offered to the families and caregivers of the children enrolled at those ABCD sites.

"The Healthy Kids-Healthy Futures program exemplifies Northeastern's Stony Brook Initiative, which is fundamentally about community engagement," said Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun. "Complex problems require collaborative solutions. We are happy to team up with Children's Hospital and the Red Sox to address the troubling issue of childhood obesity."

In order to promote increased physical activity, HKHF has partnered with Boston Centers for Youth and Families (BCYF) to hold a series of Open Gym sessions at the Madison Park Community Center. Each Open Gym is a 90-minute semi-structured physical activity opportunity for children ages 3-8 and their caregivers to explore different ways to be active together. The HKHF Open Gym is designed as a fun, active, creative and safe physical activity opportunity that incorporates age-appropriate activities and aims to bring families into Boston's community spaces. The Open Gym sessions, to be held Saturdays throughout the summer, are free for participants and led by trained student leaders from Northeastern University.

"We hope that by supporting this innovative program we can make a difference in reducing obesity rates among Boston youth," said Dr. James Mandell, CEO of Children's Hospital Boston. "We see the consequences of childhood obesity on a daily basis, with an increased incidence of diabetes and other diseases that can have life-long implications. Starting to educate about healthy habits at this young age goes a long way towards prevention of these serious health issues."

On July 10, select participants from Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures and ABCD providers will be honored during a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park for their participation in the program. Representatives from all three partner institutions will also be on-hand during the ceremony to celebrate the families and ABCD providers for their commitment to the prevention of childhood obesity.

"The Boston Red Sox have a long tradition of community involvement in these neighborhoods, and we are excited to be building on that with the launch of Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures," said Larry Lucchino, Red Sox President and CEO. "We are happy to support Northeastern and Children's and provide a necessary resource for Boston pre-schoolers and their families."

Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures is a pilot project that aims to generate programmatic results and ultimately secure additional funding that will allow the replication of the program. HKHF will provide information and education as well as organized, supervised recreational opportunities for young children and their families.

Jaime Crespo
Children's Hospital Boston

The Head Start program of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) provides 2,400 low-income, pre-kindergarten children and their families with education, health, special education, dental, mental health, social and nutritional services in 24 neighborhood-based programs throughout Boston. Parents are active participants in Head Start where they have access to special programs such as literacy, health education, higher education, and professional development/training opportunities. Head Start serves as a model for early childhood initiatives nationwide and throughout the world. Early Head Start serves pregnant mothers, infants and toddlers up to age three.

The Boston Red Sox organization has been a proud member of both the New England and Boston community since 1901. The Red Sox' commitment to the community is demonstrated in a number of ways--with resources, volunteer time, and support of charitable programs. Since 2003, the organization has provided non-profit organizations with a total of 22,483 auction items and baseball experiences. Additionally, members of the ballclub, including players, coaches and our manager made a record 552 community appearances in 2008. The Red Sox Foundation, the official 501(c)3 team charity, has donated more than $30 million to non-profits in the community since the charity was established in 2002 and is now the largest non-profit Foundation in all of Major League Baseball.

Founded in 1869 as a 20-bed hospital for children, Children's Hospital Boston today is one of the nation's leading pediatric medical centers, the primary pediatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, and the largest provider of health care to Massachusetts children. In addition to 396 pediatric and adolescent inpatient beds and more than 100 outpatient programs, Children's houses the world's largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries benefit both children and adults. More than 500 scientists, including eight members of the National Academy of Sciences, 11 members of the Institute of Medicine and 13 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Children's research community. For more information about the hospital

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is a private research university located in the heart of Boston. Northeastern is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. The university's distinctive cooperative education program, where students alternate semesters of full-time study with semesters of paid work in fields relevant to their professional interests and major, is one of the largest and most innovative in the world. The University offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate programs leading to degrees through the doctorate in six undergraduate colleges, eight graduate schools, and two part-time divisions. For more information, please