Healthy based eating and singing exercises for young children can reduce their body mass index (BMI) according to research carried out over the last decade by Dr Melinda Stolley, previously with the University of Illinois at Chicago and now a professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Using Government grants totalling over $3.5m from the Department of Agriculture and donations from the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute, Stolley has developed a program called Hip-Hop to Health Jr(HH2H), which is an evidence-based healthy eating and exercise curriculum developed for children ages 3-7 years. HH2H was originally created by Stolley with ongoing feedback from early elementary school teachers, parents and school administrators. Results of a comprehensive randomized evaluation study showed that children who received the Hip Hop to Health Jr curriculum showed smaller increases in their body mass index at both a 1-year and 2-year follow-up than children who received a general health curriculum. Thus,HH2H was successful in taking these children off the trajectory to overweight and obesity.
The curriculum is literacy-based, interactive and can be easily implemented in a variety of settings including schools, childcare centers, park districts, afterschool programs, churches and homes. Each week focuses on a specific theme such as go and grow foods, fruits and veggies, alternative activities to TV, heart healthy exercise and so on. Although the original and tested curriculum is 14 weeks with three lessons weekly, abbreviated programs of 4, 6 and 8 weeks are also available.
The child curriculum includes a set of food group puppets, two original curriculum books and two fully scripted 20-minute exercise routines with an optional parent newsletter for each weekly theme.There is also a twenty song CD titled ‘Happy Healthy Kids’, which can be purchased for $12 and includes songs such as ‘Skip To My Lou’; ‘Who Are the Foods in the Pyramid’ and a very popular ‘Bake Don’t Fry’. Artists include SweetDreamz;Suzanne Palmer and Gravity. This album was produced by well-known remix producer, Craig J Snider, who has had number one Billboard success with Kelly Clarkson, Beyoncé and Mariah Carey.
Marian Fitzgibbon, PhD led the study that evaluated Hip-Hop to Health Jr. She is a Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and is an expert in the area of childhood obesity. Dr. Fitzgibbon served on the Institute of Medicine Committee that developed the strategic plan for addressing childhood obesity in the United States.
Fitzgibbon initially discovered some ethnic anomalies. Some of the project’s findings in 2006 revealed that, the reduction in a child’s BMI was not effective for every ethnic group. Fitzgibbon found that although Latino children liked the songs, Hip-Hop to Health did not make a difference to their body mass indexes.
The amount of taxpayers’ money that has been spent over the last ten years on this research belies belief. Although Stolley wrote most of the lyrics to the songs, using Snider as the CD producer would certainly explain where some of the 3.5 million dollars was spent. The Department of Agriculture awarded $950,000 to the project in 2011 and this was in addition to funding from the National Institute of Health and also grants from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which began in 2005. Therefore, in total funding for these studies have cost taxpayers over $3.5m.
For further information on Hip-Hop To Health and to watch some video examples of singing in action, or to purchase the taxpayer funded CD, please visit: http://www.hiphoptohealth.com/.