Youth health program up for national honors
By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services
With election season in full swing, there’s one more local candidate seeking votes.
Only this candidate isn’t a person; it’s a program — one aimed at helping reduce youth obesity.
East Carolina University’s MATCH program is one of more than 100 programs geared toward youth nationwide participating in the Childhood Obesity Challenge to identify the best ideas for helping young people reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Dr. Suzanne Lazorick
MATCH (Motivating Adolescents with Technology to CHOOSE Health) is working in 15 schools in 9 counties. It is an approach to student wellness that combines physical activity, nutrition education, and technology. Former seventh-grade teacher Tim Hardison developed the program in Martin County. He now directs the program at ECU.
For 16 weeks, students learn goal-setting, self-monitoring, decision-making and other skills to help them achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle and weight. The MATCH curriculum fits within the seventh-grade N.C. Standard Course of Study, and lessons are designed to improve performance on end-of-grade tests in reading, writing, math and computer skills.
Led by Hardison and Dr. Suzanne Lazorick, an ECU associate professor of pediatrics and public health, MATCH is in schools in the following counties: Martin, Pamlico, Halifax, Johnston, Washington, Pitt, Hyde, Chowan, and Edgecombe.
“As MATCH has expanded, consistently anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of kids who were overweight at the start of the program are less overweight after they finish, and also over 75 percent of all kids in MATCH improve their cardiovascular fitness as measured by a standardized fitness test in P.E.,” Lazorick said.
Many of the schools in the MATCH program have obesity rates among the highest in the state and have more than half of students receiving subsidized school meals, according to Hardison and Lazorick.
To see more information about MATCH , go to http://ajpmchallenge.calit2.net/submissions/entry/id/63. Voting ended in September.
The Childhood Obesity Challenge is organized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In addition to the public vote, submissions will be judged by an expert panel. The program judged to be the best will be published in an upcoming issue of AJPM. It will also receive a cash award, as will the top online vote-getter, which Lazorick said would be invested back into MATCH.