McDonald Army Health Center is promoting the Kids Move program as a part of a national effort to eradicate childhood obesity in the United States and ensure young people get a healthy start in life.

Kids Move is a twelve-week, family-based lifestyle program for children ages 6 to 17 with a body mass index over the 85th percentile.

Participants receive nutrition education, behavior modification classes and supervised physical education, including Zumba classes. These classes promote a healthy lifestyle, resulting in improvements in BMI and quality of life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the last 30 years childhood obesity rates have more than doubled among children and tripled in adolescents. More than 23 million children and teenagers are obese or overweight - a statistic health and medical experts consider an epidemic.

"The growing rate of childhood obesity in our country is alarming," said Dr. Ann Shoemaker, Kids Move program manager. "National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the Kids Move program recognize the serious threat obesity poses to the health of America's children and the importance of decreasing its prevalence not only at Fort Eustis, but across the entire United States."

The Kids Move program meets at the Army Community Services Mondays and Wednesdays, and provides nutrition education, behavior modification classes and fun, supervised physical activities for enrollees and families to participate in and enjoy.

The goal of the Fort Eustis program is to combat the growing number of obese children and adults, said Shoemaker.

Obese children have an 80 percent chance of becoming obese adults. As a result, they are more at risk for associated adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, cancer and osteoarthritis, according to the CDC.

The financial implications add up to $14 billion per year in direct health care costs. Americans spend approximately 9 percent of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses. Additionally, there are psychosocial consequences that can hinder academic and social functioning and persist into adulthood, said Shoemaker.

"These severe consequences underscore the critical importance of children and teens to participate in physical activity and engage in healthy eating habits," Shoemaker said. "Childhood obesity is entirely preventable. It's up to adults to encourage these healthy habits."

Any families interested in participating in Kids Move should discuss the program with their primary care manager at McDonald Army Health Center. For more information, contact in the Pediatric Clinic at 878-7500.