Childhood obesity

When the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh recently asked community leaders to identify the biggest unmet needs for children the number one priority was prevention of childhood obesity.

It just so happens that Children’s Hospital has a weight and wellness center, and a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public school district was quickly formed.

“When we interacted with [district leaders] they asked that we partner with some type of program with established outcomes that would help us better monitor our success,” said Children’s Hospital Vice President Kathy Guatteri.

“I think we are not as unhealthy as we could be, but I think there’s lots of room for improvement,” says Dr. Karen Hacker, Allegheny County Health Department Director. 

On Monday the department begins a series of 13 public meetings over the next seven weeks to discuss health concerns throughout the county.

The Allegheny Health Department reported that 30% of school age kids in the county are obese or overweight, and a new Pittsburgh start-up aims to address this issue with animated characters shaped like food and 6 years of research at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  

Fitwits combines stories, games, and instructions for parents and professionals on how to deal with the sensitive subject of obesity.

Marcus Charleston / 90.5 FM WESA

The major components of living a healthy life are learning about and eating healthy food and the importance of physical fitness. 

With 54 schools in the Pittsburgh Public School System and nearly 26 thousand students, getting them fed requires planning and adherence to government guidelines for nutrition.

In some cases, the food for Pittsburgh public schools is prepared offsite, at a facility in the South Side. 

Curtistine Walker, director of food service for Pittsburgh Public Schools explained “the only schools that receive meals from the satellite site, or I guess you could call it our plant, are those schools that don’t have full service kitchens and right now, there’s probably about 20 that don’t.”

The Diet Industry is Big Business

Sep 3, 2013
Lululemon Athletica / flickr

As obesity rates rise in the United States, so too do the amount of citizens annually attempting to diet. Rebecca Harris, Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, says studies show at any one time, America has an estimated 108 million people on diets.

She notes that most are women, most make four or five attempts per year to diet and an overwhelming majority are trying to lose weight by themselves, without a plan or program.

Tony Alter / Flickr

Following the American Medical Association’s reclassification of obesity as a disease, physicians are hopeful about the slew of positive opportunities that could come to the one in three Americans classified as “obese.

Dr. Esa Davis, a practicing physician with UPMC Division of General Internal Medicine, notes that this change will allow for primary care offices to have more discussions with patients about obesity and hopefully allow for “broader insurance coverage for weight loss programs and nutritional services” as well as “increased funding for research and intervention programs.”

But why are there more obese people in 2013 than ever before? Davis points to the increased availability of nutrient-dense food and a decrease in physical activity.  This decrease has extended to schoolchildren where exercise is not always part of the daily routine.

Jelly Mark /

On Tuesday, the American Medical Association officially re-classified obesity as a disease. Experts are now saying this recognition will enable doctors to better treat the 1 in 3 Americans who struggle with obesity. It is hoped health plans will create more products to help patients manage their weight and broaden the coverage for those in need. Dr. Esa Davis, a practicing physician with UPMC, joins us to discuss the changes this re-classification will bring to the healthcare system.