(Apr. 23, 2007)
A new camp at East Carolina University will help the region's children get a jump-start on losing weight and improving their long-term health.
The healthy weight camp will be led by ECU physicians and others experienced in working with overweight and obese children.
The six-week camp will be June 24-Aug. 3. In its first year, it will accept girls 10 to 18.
"Most kids that do go to healthy weight camps tend to be girls," said Dr. David Collier, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Brody School of Medicine and director of the ECU Pediatric Healthy Weight Research and Treatment Center. "Many boys are interested in sports and have sports camps as an option."
Plans are to accept boys in the future, Collier said.
Campers will stay in ECU dormitories, and ECU students will serve as counselors. The camp director will be Ira Green, who led a successful camp for overweight children in Lenoir.
The Harold H. Bate Foundation has pledged $25,000 to pay camp expenses for 10 Jones County girls who might otherwise not be able to afford the camp.
Called Camp Golden Treasures, it will not only feature traditional weight-loss tactics such as exercise and low-calorie meals but also educational sessions with family members and cooking classes to help campers make lifestyle changes to help keep the weight off.
"We know we can achieve good short-term gains," Collier said. "We need to work extra hard in our region to help change the family environment and home environment these kids go back into."
Toward that end, a 4-H Club just for campers from Jones County is being planned, Collier added.
Whereas some camps, such as the one Green led in Lenoir, are in rural settings, having the camp at ECU will provide a more realistic setting where campers can practice making healthful choices, Collier said. Campers will eat in a dining hall, where cheeseburgers, ice cream and soft drinks are available. Across the street from campus sit Krispy Kreme and convenience stores.
On the other hand, the college environment also means concerts, plays and other cultural and entertainment events are available, Collier said. Convincing university leaders to support the camp wasn't hard.
"We have the facilities. We're working to do it at the bare bones cost because we believe in it," said Dr. Lynn Roeder, ECU associate vice chancellor for student life and interim dean of students. "We believe in healthy living."
While the goal of the camp is to lose weight and help campers learn to keep it off, Collier said, broader goals are to reduce the chances the girls will develop health problems later, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and joint disease.
"We're much more interested in the long-term success than the six-week success," Collier said. "This is a disease-prevention effort through intensive lifestyle intervention."
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 percent of adolescents 12 to 19 are overweight. The same percentage of children ages 6 to 11 is overweight.
For more information, call Green at (919) 949-7415 or visit www.ecu.edu/campgoldentreasures.
Individuals with disabilities requesting accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the Department for Disability Support Services at (252) 328-6799 (V) or (252) 328-0899 (TTY).