Making Fruit and Vegetables Fun
Jamie Jeffrey, M.D.
Medical Director, HealthyKids Wellness & Weight Management Program Director, KEYS 4 HealthyKids Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics, WVU–Charleston Division
Around the time Jamie Jeffrey started practicing pediatric medicine at Charleston Area Medical Center in 1997, her field began changing in ways she never anticipated. “When I was training,” Jeffrey says, “there was no type 2 diabetes in kids. But then, suddenly, we started seeing all of these adult diseases—type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and even sleep apnea—in kids. And that was because of the obesity epidemic.”
Jeffrey was the attending pediatrician at CAMC’s Children’s Medicine Center at the time, which means she was responsible for teaching young doctors how to care for children who had developed these adult diseases. Although she and other pediatricians were stepping into a whole new arena of problems they’d never dealt with before, Jeffrey was hopeful that she could help find a solution to this problem that was growing across the U.S.—and especially in West Virginia, where obesity rates were and still are significantly higher than the national average.
“I’ve always been a ‘fixer,’” Jeffrey says. This passion for problem-solving led her to open the HealthyKids Clinic in 2005. “It was me, a dietitian, and a psychologist that would see young patients with adult diseases outside of the primary care practice on a weekly basis,” she says, “because the behavior change needed for them to improve their health just couldn’t be achieved in a 15-minute office visit at the primary care level.” In 2009, she took her mission one step further by establishing KEYS 4 HealthyKids, a public health initiative geared toward helping children develop healthy habits from childhood—and have fun while doing it.
The 5210 Rx program is one of many campaigns launched by KEYS that Jeffrey is particularly proud of. “There’s so much information out there—a lot of which is contradictory—about how to be healthy and active,” she says. That’s why she breaks down her evidence-based healthy living “prescription” program into four easy-to-follow instructions: “The ‘5’ stands for five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” she explains. “‘2’ is two hours or less of screen time. ‘1’ is one hour or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity. And ‘0’ is zero sugary drinks. Kids only need to drink water and milk.”
While making a change at the individual level is essential, it’s just one step toward achieving the positive outcomes that Jeffrey and her team at KEYS 4 HealthyKids strive for. On a larger scale, Jeffrey says, KEYS aspires to prevent childhood obesity through PSE—policy, system, and environmental—changes. “And we’re getting there,” she says. “Slowly, but surely.”
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