Helping Keep Wisconsin Kids Healthy

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Girl rollerbladingMADISON – The number of overweight adolescents has tripled in the last two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And UW Health's Pediatric Fitness Clinic is trying to reverse the trend.

A primary service of the Pediatric Fitness Clinic is to work one-on-one with children who are overweight or at risk of developing weight-related health issues, including diabetes or hypertension. But those efforts alone are not enough.

"Helping the children who come to our clinic remains a priority. But, in order to make inroads into childhood obesity, we have to develop a greater awareness of how significant the issue truly is," said Aaron Carrel, MD pediatric endocrinologist at the Pediatric Fitness Clinic.

Which is why for the last few years, Dr. Carrel and his associates have been working to bring pediatric fitness initiatives to communities throughout Wisconsin.

"Childhood obesity is really a public health issue," said Dr. Carrel. "One way to help make changes in communities and bring public awareness to the issue is through the schools."

Beginning in 2003, Dr. Carrel began working with River Bluff Middle School in Stoughton, Wisconsin to help implement a 'lifestyle-based' physical education curriculum. Unlike team sports that traditional PE classes emphasize, lifestyle-based curriculum emphasizes such activities as rollerblading or bike riding; activities kids can easily do on their own.

Those early efforts have grown steadily and have since included partnering with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the YMCA. Through these relationships, Dr. Carrel and researchers from the Pediatric Fitness Clinic have started bringing fitness initiatives to local communities and examining the effectiveness of such efforts.

In addition to their work with schools, the Pediatric Fitness Clinic is also working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to address the issue of childhood obesity and diabetes on a much larger scale.

"The [Pediatric Fitness] Clinic will always provide care for those children who need it," said Dr. Carrel. "But it is important that we work on a larger scale as well if we're going to make a significant change across the state."

As a result, Dr. Carrel and staff of the Pediatric Fitness Clinic helped to establish Wisconsin Prevention of Obesity and Diabetes, or WiPOD. The group brings together people from across the UW campus, including such diverse departments as soil sciences, urban planning and engineering, along with the medical community to address the issue of childhood obesity.

"Obesity and diabetes are not just a health care problem," said Dr. Carrel. "It is a far-reaching problem that is directly affected by where we live and how we live."

A main goal of the group is to work towards reducing obesity and diabetes by not only promoting awareness of the issue in the public, but also by improving the environment in which we live. Through campus-wide initiatives, including developing new courses and participating in symposiums, they are helping to guide UW-Madison in addressing the issue of childhood obesity and diabetes.

According to Dr. Carrel, "Our ultimate goal is to help make Wisconsin's kids among the healthiest in the nation."

To learn more about the Pediatric Fitness Clinic, visit

Date Published: 03/18/2008

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