October 12, 2005 | By: Terri McLean

Nearly half of Kentucky children ages 6 to 19 are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that childhood overweight can be prevented by making policy and environmental changes to help families adopt healthier behaviors, said Janet Tietyen, food and nutrition specialist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

“It takes a whole community,” she said. “That’s the only way to effect change. Society bears the burden of overweight, and it can foster a healthy weight through changes in organizations, communities and policies.” 

Tietyen is not alone in her desire to reverse the epidemic of childhood overweight in Kentucky. She is one of several academic, health and government leaders who have joined forces the past four years to sponsor the Growing Healthy Kids Conference. This year’s conference is Nov. 3-4 in Lexington. 

It is designed for community leaders, health educators, nurses, registered dietitians, nutrition professionals, school administrators, teachers, food service directors, county Extension agents, parents and others who can “go back to their communities and make a difference,” she said. 

This year’s theme is “What Parents Can Do to Promote a Healthy Weight” and will feature such topics as “Keys to Great Parenting for a Healthy Weight,” “Family Systems: What Works, What Doesn’t,” “Family and Community Resources: What Makes a Difference” and “Get Moving Kentucky Youth.”

“It’s about making the right choices,” Tietyen said. “You just have to make right choices easy, fun and popular.”

A statewide family meal campaign – “Share Meals-Make Memories” – will also be rolled out during the conference.

“We want to bring people back to the table,” Tietyen said. “We will provide a calendar, and every month there will be a message about family meals and parenting tips.”

The Growing Healthy Kids Conference is one of several successful efforts resulting from the formation in 2001 of a statewide task force charged with defining and measuring the extent of overweight among Kentucky children – a critical first step in combating the problem, Tietyen said.

The conference, to be held at Holiday Inn North in Lexington, is sponsored by UK Cooperative Extension, the Kentucky Department of Education, and the Kentucky Department for Public Health. Continuing education hours will be available. Participants will receive a variety of handouts, including a copy of Kathy Kater’s book “Real Kids Come in All Sizes.” Cost of the two-day event is $65.

The registration form is available online athttp://www.ca.uky.edu/fcs/healthykids/ or by calling Adrienne Grizzell at (859) 245-0717. Registration is limited to 350 participants. The deadline to register is Oct. 22. 


Writer: Terri McLean 859-257-4736, ext. 276

Contact: Janet Tietyen, 859-257-1812
Adrienne Grizzell 859-245-0717