NIH Announces Collaboration with National Council of Negro Women to Reduce Childhood Overweight

Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a collaboration today with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) to help African American children maintain a healthy weight. As part of this collaboration, NCNW members around the U.S. will offer a fun, fast-paced training program for parents, and one for children, developed by the National Institutes of Health. The programs are based on NIH’s successful We Can! or “Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition,” a science-based national education program to help children ages 8-13 stay at a healthy weight.

The We Can! program provides parents and caregivers with the tools, strategies, and tactics they need to address the problem of childhood overweight. It supports population-based programming that provides a coordinated response to childhood overweight through community mobilization. The program is currently being implemented through a network of organizations in more than 450 community sites in 44 states. Information is available at

“This is a perfect collaboration,” said Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “Children are our most valuable resource and NCNW can help us get our health information to families who can benefit from it.”

The announcement was made at the 53rd annual meeting of the NCNW in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Maddox explained that some of the We Can! community-based program components use a facilitator to explain the practical strategies included in the program materials to families and their children. NCNW members will fill this purpose, scheduling workshops and demonstrating the materials to members of their respective communities. Other components of the program include media outreach, partnership development with over 40 national and corporate partners, resources for parents, health care providers, and others, and a comprehensive Website.

NCNW joins these other organizations implementing We Can! in community centers, schools, health care settings, corporate wellness programs, and faith-based organizations to help families work with their children toward healthier lifestyles. Last week, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H., announced a new partnership between We Can! and the Association of Children’s Museums at the Boston Children’s Museum. The event marked his first public outreach activity as chair of the Department of Health and Human Services' new Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative, which highlights new approaches to obesity prevention and the promotion of healthy weight for children. In April 2007, NIH established the We Can! City/County program to help cities and counties across the nation mobilize their communities to prevent childhood overweight.

“Overweight and obesity are a threat to the health of African American youth,” said Dr. Dorothy I. Height, Chair and President Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. “The NCNW is committed to helping our children develop the healthy habits that will serve them through a lifetime.”

Specifically, NCNW leadership will work with its member families to carry out We Can! components programs for parents and children.

One key program is We Can! Energize Our Families: Parents Program, a multi-session program that covers the basics of maintaining a healthy weight. The fun and hands-on sessions, along with the companion parent handbook and workbook, focus on helping participants learn skills that can help their families make healthy food choices and become more physically active. Information on the Parents Program is available on the Web at

We Can! also offers three curricula for youth. For example, Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! is an interactive after-school education program for young people ages 11 to 13 developed by NICHD. It is designed to help teach young people about the complex media world around them, and how it can affect their health—especially in the areas of nutrition and physical activity. Media-Smart Youth teaches young people to analyze, evaluate, and create media messages—skills that can help them make informed choices about nutrition and physical activity. More information about Media-Smart Youth is available at (PDF - 30 MB).

We Can! also offers CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) Kids Club, an after-school program proven to help elementary school age children improve nutrition and increase physical activity. The program uses a coordinated approach to helping children adopt healthy dietary and physical activity behaviors by positively changing the health environments of recreation programs, schools, and homes. The third youth curriculum, S.M.A.R.T. (Student Media Awareness to Reduce Television), is an in-school curriculum designed to teach third and fourth grade children about the need to reduce television, videotape and DVD viewing, and video and computer game use.

Dr. Maddox noted that the We Can! program is based on research that the NIH has supported for over a decade. The program conveys what researchers have learned about preventing overweight; it is designed to help families and community groups teach children to make better food choices, be more physically active, and reduce the amount of time spent in front of television and computer screens.

As with adults, Dr. Maddox said, overweight and obesity put youth at risk for such health problems as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, and asthma.

About We Can!

We Can! is a science-based national education program developed by the National Institutes of Health–a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -to help children ages 8-13 stay at a healthy weight. We Can! is unique among existing youth obesity-prevention initiatives in its focus on reaching parents and families as a primary group for influencing young people. The program offers flexible resources complete with partnership ideas and outreach opportunities to unite community organizations. Four of the National Institutes of Health have combined their unique resources and activities to create We Can!: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and the National Cancer Institute. For more information, visit or call toll-free 866-35-WE CAN (866-359-3226)


The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the nation’s medical research agency—includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research; and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit

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