Children's Health

Pilot Program Targets Childhood Obesity

Kids in Action Enrolls 24 Families in Pilot Program

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Michigan Medical, P.C. (MMPC), Kent/Michigan State University Extension and the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids have joined forces to create Kids in Action – a healthy lifestyle intervention program – to fight the disease of childhood obesity in West Michigan. The pilot program is the only physician led weight management clinic for children and adolescents in West Michigan.

“The statistics are impossible to ignore,” said Mike Wood, M.D., division chief, endocrinology, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “The National Center for Health Statistics estimates 13 percent of children ages six through 11 are overweight and 16 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 19 are overweight. The crisis is particularly acute in Michigan with the state ranking one of the 10 most overweight for the past 14 consecutive years.”

Kids in Action is designed to motivate children and their families to make healthy lifestyle changes with medical oversight. Program components include exercise, behavioral modifications and nutrition education. The goal is to increase physical activity and improve eating habits with the help of experts in nutrition, behavior and exercise. The 16-week program requires a commitment from both the child and parent/guardian to be successful.

“Kids in Action will enable participants to look at food in a whole new light,” said Kristie DeLaura, M.S.W., behaviorist, MMPC. “Families today are pulled in so many directions that health and wellness are often low on the priority list. This program will help families reframe the way they think about food, emotional eating and body image.”

Children participating in the program meet twice a week for two hours at the David D. Hunting YMCA in downtown Grand Rapids. Each session is divided into an education session and a physical activity session. Parents or guardians of the children meet once a week for one hour.

“The key to losing and maintaining weight loss is physical activity,” said Renee Kane, Kids in Action program director, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “Each family will receive a complimentary membership to the YMCA during the program. Children and their families who meet 80 percent of program requirements will receive an additional six-month membership at no charge.”

Program participants will benefit from four home visits from a trained peer educator from the Kent/Michigan State University Extension for Nutrition Services.

“The home visit will enable children and families to develop food and cooking plans specific for their needs,” said Betty Blase, county extension director, Kent/Michigan State University Extension. “What works for one family might not work for another. Meeting with participants at their home will help identify needs and opportunities for positive change.”

The pilot program includes 24 children and their families. Children must be between nine and 12 years of age and referred by the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital endocrinology clinic. Children must be at or above the 95th percentile of their body mass index. A parent or adult living with the child must agree to participate in the program and support the recommended lifestyle changes. There is no charge to participate in the pilot program.

“Following the pilot, we anticipate Kids in Action will develop into a larger, permanent program,” added Wood. “Obesity is a disease that is not going away without a concentrated effort by our entire community. This program is one step in the right direction.”

Kent/MSU Extension is the local county office for the Michigan State University Extension system. Established as a partnership between the federal, state, and county government, MSU Extension helps people improve their lives through an educational process that applies knowledge to critical issues, need and opportunities. In Kent County, more than 40 staff provide educational programs in nutrition, breastfeeding, parenting, money management, 4-H youth development, community and economic development, agriculture and horticulture. For more information, you can visit

MMPC has more than 300 health care providers in 50 locations across West Michigan in more than 20 specialties. To learn more about MMPC, visit

Founded in 1866, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids is composed of seven branches that serve 118,468 in the greater Grand Rapids community. YMCA core programs include: aquatics, camping, child care, family, health and wellness, leadership development, arts and humanities, Service-Learning, and youth/adult sports. All program curriculum is structured to develop the YMCA’s Core Values of Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility. The vision of the YMCA is to be the community leader in building strong kids, strong families, and strong communities.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a member of Spectrum Health, is West Michigan’s largest children’s hospital, serving children and families throughout a 37-county region. The team includes more than 100 specialists uniquely skilled in providing medical care to children, in over 40 outpatient clinical settings. Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is committed to caring for children and families with compassion, excellence and innovation. For more information, you can visit