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Camp helps youth achieve a healthy weight

From left, Acolia Conley, Emmanuel Conley, Elijah Conley, Geri Walters and Quawshawn Conley take a break for a family photo. Photo by Cliff Hollis
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (June 4, 2008)   —   If you're not sure if a summer camp can teach lasting lessons on making healthful lifestyle choices, go down Vance Street in Greenville.

Near the end of the street, you might find three brothers and their sister playing basketball. That's one way 15-year-old Acolia Conley is working to maintain her weight and improve her health. She's also eating more vegetables while eating less overall and finding other ways to exercise.

She learned about healthy habits at a camp for girls last year at East Carolina University. This year, ECU is partnering with N.C. State University to provide a healthy lifestyle camp for overweight youth at the Eastern 4-H Center in Columbia from July 27 to Aug. 15 for boys and girls ages 12 to 18.

"It's a healthy way to get fit," Acolia said. "You'll have fun while getting fit."

The camp is called Take Off 4-Health.

"The goal of the camp is for participants to lose weight, build self-esteem and learn the tools to a healthy lifestyle while reducing their risks of developing future chronic disease, and, of course, to have fun while doing it," 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. "Through participation in the camp, we hope to reduce the chance the kids will develop health problems later in life, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and joint disease."

Campers will participate in recreational programs including swimming, boating, hiking, archery and team sports. The camp will also feature interactive and hands-on educational sessions focused on healthy eating, increased activity, self-esteem and body image. These sessions will help campers make the lifestyle changes needed to keep their weight off, Collier said.

Team-building activities include the Eastern 4-H Center's challenge course and climbing wall. Traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, ecology, talent shows and campfires will round out the experience.

"Kids are much more likely to adopt healthy lifestyle habits if they see them as fun and 'do-able.' The camp is a great way to jump-start these new habits," Collier said.

Take Off 4-Health will provide campers with three balanced meals a day plus two snacks. The meals, based on menus and recipes developed by ECU pediatric dietitians, will help participants lose weight and meet their nutrient needs. Throughout the program, ECU physicians will provide medical supervision. At the end of camp, campers will receive materials to help them continue the healthy lifestyle habits they learned. Classes and follow-up for families will be part of this year's camp, too.

Campers, including those attending on scholarships provided by the Pitt Memorial Hospital Foundation, will participate in a year-long family-centered program directed by Pitt County Memorial Hospital's pediatric healthy weight case management program. This program is funded by a grant from The Duke Endowment and offers support from an interdisciplinary team and focuses on helping overweight children and their families make healthy lifestyle changes. Families will attend sessions while their children are at camp that will provide them with the tools they need to continue with their healthy changes. After camp, the family will also attend monthly sessions to help the campers continue their healthy lifestyles. The education and support are designed to help maintain and support the changes the children and families have made while at camp, said Jim Cox, program director.

Acolia's grandmother, Geri Walters, said the girl's experience at camp and subsequent nutrition classes for her and Acolia's mother have helped them learn how to prepare low-calorie dishes and shop for healthy yet economical foods.

"It's been a rewarding experience for the whole family," Walters sa


Contact: Doug Boyd | 252-744-2481