Local Program Combats Childhood Obesity

Kids can learn more about the importance of a healthy lifestyle through the Pittsburgh-based Fitwits program.

The program uses games and food-inspired characters, which were created by children in Pittsburgh, to teach kids about healthy eating and staying active.

“There was a need for something that would be more accessible for kids to understand and embrace,” said Jill Haltigan, MD, a UPMC resident who presented a poster on the program at the Pennsylvania Medical Society Resident and Fellow Section’s annual poster contest.

“Kids weren’t retaining and learning what their doctors were telling them about obesity. Fitwits was designed to give kids a more visual and hands-on learning tool,” added fellow UPMC resident and poster presenter Adam Abdulally, MD.

The Fitwits program is run in the Pittsburgh-area, including fifth grade classrooms and doctor’s offices. It recently launched a website to reach out to a larger audience.

Although they haven’t done any research to determine if children who participate in the program lose weight or lower their BMI, Dr. Haltigan and Dr. Abdulally said kids have been engaged with the characters and games.

Dr. Haltigan said the program also has been well-received by adults, with website hits from around the world and colleagues requesting copies of program materials at conferences.

A collaboration between the Carnegie Mellon University School of Design and UPMC St. Margaret Family Health Centers, the program was created to help fight the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.