Massachusetts Cub Scouts Help Curb Childhood Obesity

boy scouts move more with physical activity during pack meeting

Massachusetts Cub Scouts Help Curb Childhood Obesity

July 02, 2014

Earn the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Patch by Drinking Right, Snacking Smart, and Moving More

BOSTON, MA - Obesity affects 17% (12.5 million) of all children and adolescents in the United States. In Massachusetts, nearly one-third (30%) of children are considered either overweight or obese.  A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that as a result of this epidemic, children today may have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents.

To address this issue, Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University in Boston is working with organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America to promote three healthy habits: drinking water instead of sugary beverages, snacking on fruits and vegetables, and adding physical activity to meetings and events.

Last year, Healthy Kids Out of School collaborated with the Boy Scouts of America to develop and launch the SCOUTStrong Healthy Unit Patch in New England. Today, Scouts in Massachusetts and around the country can earn the patch by serving water and healthy snacks at their meetings, and offering at least 15 minutes of physical activity. To date, 293 scouts from 19 different troops have earned the patch in Massachusetts.

Through its Growing Up Healthy initiative, the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation provides funding for Healthy Kids Out of School to work with out-of-school-time programs in the New England area. “We know that children’s success in school and beyond, as well as their overall quality of life, is closely tied to health,” says the foundation’s president Karen Voci.  “Since 2007, we have been focusing our efforts on childhood obesity prevention and we know that the best way to improve the health of children is to improve the environments in which they spend most of their time.”

Nicki Pakkala of Quincy, MA is an assistant Den Leader who is making a difference in the health of her Scouts.  Last fall, Pakkala attended a training session offered by Healthy Kids Out of School and knew immediately that she needed to bring the program to her son’s Den. A health care professional by trade, Pakkala knew that a healthy lifestyle was all about making choices.  “The Healthy Unit Patch is all about education,” said Pakkala. “Learning to make smart, healthy decisions today will have a positive impact for these kids in the future.”

Pakkala has already seen the difference pay off. “The parents in the Den have been very supportive, which is key to the program’s success. One family decided to join their local YMCA to exercise together, while another made a strong effort to hike more during the winter months.” Pakkala feels so strongly about the effectiveness of the Healthy Unit Patch that she will be offering training to other Dens this fall.

Since launching the trainings in 2013, Healthy Kids Out of School has trained over 500 volunteer leaders across New England and is already seeing the impact of these efforts.  “Thousands of Scouts have already achieved the Patch, with more requests from leaders coming in every day,” says Alyssa Koomas, regional project manager for Healthy Kids Out of School. “When the Scout Leaders call in to request the patches, they tell us about the benefits of making these simple, healthy changes to their meetings – the Scouts have longer attention spans, enthusiasm for trying new things, and are just having a whole lot of fun.”

Funding from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation supported the development of a “learning laboratory” across Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire to test, develop and deliver trainings and materials to support out-of-school-time programs that are adopting the Healthy Kids Out of School initiative’s three principles: Snack Smart, Drink Right and Move More.

About Healthy Kids Out of School
Healthy Kids Out of School is an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University. The initiative works with leaders around the country to promote three principles for healthy out-of-school time: Drink Right, Move More, and Snack Smart. The Healthy Kids Hub website (www.HealthyKidsHub.org) provides resources to support the implementation of these principles. Regional funding for the Healthy Kids Out of School initiative is provided by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation with additional support from Newman’s Own Foundation.

About ChildObesity180:  Aiming for a “180” on Childhood Obesity
Based at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, our premise is unique:  Top national leaders from the private, public, nonprofit, and academic sectors committed to developing, measuring, and implementing evidence-based solutions to reverse the alarming epidemic of childhood obesity in America. For more information, visit www.ChildObesity180.org.

Media Contact:
Jeff Landis
Communications Consultant, Healthy Kids Out of School
(978) 778-8711