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LANDSTUHL, Germany — Doctors, school nurses, dieticians and after-school counselors are nibbling away at the obesity problem among Kaiserslautern area kids.

On July 13, the second session begins of a weight-management clinic called the Pediatric Health Intervention Team, said Maj. Bruce Hess, a Landstuhl Regional Medical Center pediatrician. The first six-week program began in February.

Eight to 10 families with overweight children will attend the second clinic, which was expanded to eight weeks, to teach families how to maintain a healthy diet, develop regular exercise habits, lose weight and keep it off, Hess said.

“Kids are getting bigger, younger,” Hess said. “Kids know it. Their parents know it. Sometimes they just need additional information like this so it sinks in.”

The program is designed to fight a growing health problem among young Americans. A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 15 percent of school-age children in the United States are seriously overweight. That’s nearly 9 million youths, or three times as many as in 1980.

The problem among Department of Defense Dependents Schools kids in the Kaiserslautern area generally mirrors that of stateside children.

Clinic members and nurses at five of the 10 area DODDS schools took the heights and weights of 1,900 children. Of those surveyed, 17.3 percent were borderline obese and another 13.4 percent were considered obese, according to Lt. Col. Joice Carter, a clinical dietician at the hospital.

Whether a person has a healthy weight is determined by measuring weight in relation to height, which generates a number called the Body Mass Index. The BMI standard for children varies based on age, Hess said.

Childhood obesity can set off a number of other adverse health conditions, such as Type II diabetes, hypertension, low self-esteem and depression, he said.

Hess said the weight management program will be expanded. For example, children at all 10 of the Kaiserslautern area schools will be surveyed in the upcoming year. They initially weren’t surveyed because there wasn’t enough staff to collect all the data, he said.

In addition, the second clinic will be broken into age groups: 5-8, 9-13 and 14-18.

And the clinic will add one-on-one coaching for kids to make sure they do their “homework” of exercising and eating right.

Hess said the first clinic had some success stories among the 10 kids who participated. Kids lost between three and 17 pounds and became less resistant to regular exercise. One motivator of the program was having kids fit into clothes that they couldn’t wear before the clinic. Each also received a pedometer to measure their walking mileage.

Whether the lessons endure is another question.

Hess and Carter said the long months of summer when kids visit relatives who don’t cook similar menus, and lack of an eating routine will make it tough.

Staff Sgt. Sheryl Donley said her 13-year-old stepdaughter Chelsea, who was seriously overweight, lost a few pounds. But Donley worries that the momentum she gained during the clinic won’t hold up during the summer, when Chelsea moves in with her biological mother in the United States.

“It’s just hard to keep her going in the right direction. It’s going to be a real challenge,” Donley said.

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