New pilot program hopes to reverse alarming obesity trend - KCTV5

New pilot program hopes to reverse alarming obesity trend amongst youth

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INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

There's a scary report Tuesday about what could happen if Americans don't start dropping pounds.

A new report from the Trust for America's Health has Missouri and Kansas both in trouble on the scale. By 2030, more than 60 percent of both state's populations will be categorized as obese. The Midwest and the South have the highest obesity according to the report.

The report talks about the healthcare costs associated with skyrocketing obesity rates. It projects far higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer which would mean an extra $13.3 billion in healthcare spending in Missouri and an extra $11.2 billion in Kansas.

A new pilot program in a local school district hopes to reverse that trend starting at an early age.

Three weeks back, 15 Independence students, ages 11 to 17, boarded a plane for South Carolina to try a different kind of education that, for some of them, could be life-saving.

To 11-year-old Cameron Larkins, life has long been about what he can't do.

"Since the third grade he has never been able to wear clothes that were made for people his age," Kimberly Kuhlman said. "He couldn't compete in sports, he couldn't participate in just about anything."

But stepping into line at the Kansas City Airport late last month, Cameron was preparing for something he believes he can do.

"I hope to lose at least 50 to 80 pounds, I hope to have my attitude a lot better," he said.

To his mother, it has to work.

"I'm trying to save his life," Kuhlman said.

She and her son are willing to make the commitment even if it means sending him more than 1,000 miles away to the Mindstream Academy in South Carolina where Cameron is now spending a semester along with 14 other students from the Independence schools.

"The number of kids who have severe medical or health needs has really increased for us. So, for us, if we can improve the quality of life for a child, if we can potentially save the life of a child through this process, that's why we're really involved in Mindstream," said Dr. Jim Hinson, superintendent of Independence Public Schools.

The kids will spend four months there mixing math and English classes with lessons in how to shop, cook and eat healthy.

"They're learning lifestyle changes, so it's not a diet program," Hinson said.

The program is an important difference for Cameron's mom who has been let down by every other option she's tried.

"Pediatrician's office, Adkins Diet, cutting out all the white foods, you name it we had tried it, Cameron had very little success," Kuhlman said.

His doctor said he might not survive past the age of 21. But now, three weeks in, Cameron's already lost at least 15 pounds, more than ever before, and he's working for so much more.

"He's doing awesome, he's doing totally awesome," Kuhlman said. "It's not so much a focus on weight as emotional, emotional well-being and their self-esteem."

It's a second chance for Cameron to really live his childhood and add decades beyond.

"I would have to say it's my last hope," Kuhlman said.

Mindstream helps train the families too so the kids can keep up their new habits when they get home. It's a pilot program right now, but the Independence superintendent said it could expand along with other local programming for kids in the schools.

The Mindstream program is paid for through a combination of the parents' chipping in, the school district's state and federal dollars and private donors.

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