JOIN for ME childhood obesity program grows in Hidalgo County, even as its participants shrink

Join For Me

“You are what you eat.”

It’s a well-known saying that most people hear from an early age.

But with about a third of all children in the U.S. considered obese or overweight, it seems that talking the talk does not necessarily mean walking the walk. Between the temptations of tasty and readily-available convenience food and ever-increasing portion sizes, Texas children are experiencing health conditions once reserved for the most unhealthy adults. Obesity in children raises risk factors for heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. It also leads to lost time at school, decreased parental productivity and higher health care costs.

In an effort to help reverse the alarming trend, UnitedHealthcare has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club in Edinburg and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance to launch the JOIN for ME initiative aimed at reducing obesity rates in Hidalgo County, which are among the highest in the nation.

JOIN for ME is a groundbreaking and life-changing program that engages kids considered obese or overweight – along with their families — in a series of group sessions and activities over a 16-week period.

Nine families recently completed the series of classes, which began in February. One of the families – the Guardiola family — was featured in a June news story in the McAllen Monitor. When 12-year-old Michael was diagnosed with high cholesterol and told to lose weight, his mother Eva turned to JOIN for ME for help and ideas. In addition to learning about ways to change the family’s diet and incorporate more exercise, JOIN for ME also has a full-time wellness coordinator and on-site coaches from Doctors Hospital.

JOIN for ME was developed by the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization. In the original proof-of-concept study, JOIN for ME partnered with the YMCA of the USA and the YMCA of Greater Providence, R.I. The study demonstrated that the combination of whole-family engagement helped participants achieve significant reductions in extra weight. After six months, 84 percent of the 155 participants completed the full program and achieved, on average, a 3.5-percent reduction in extra weight.

The Guardiolas and other families were part of the second session of JOIN for ME. The results in Hidalgo County are exciting and promising – the JOIN for ME program is continuing to grow in popularity, as the community watches its participants continuing to shrink!