Video: Childhood obesity

By Anne Thompson Chief environmental correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/19/2006 8:22:18 PM ET 2006-05-20T00:22:18

Another revolution is brewing in Boston, led by Brandy Cruthird. This pied piper of pep is on a crusade to fight childhood obesity right where she grew up — Dudley Square in Roxbury, Mass. It's here she became a high school All-American in basketball and won a college scholarship. 

“It changed me,” Cruthird says. “It increased my self-esteem. It made me more aware of who I am and what I'd like to be.”

Today, Cruthird is a part-time phys ed teacher and an owner of two gyms, including the only kids gym in Boston. She’s teaming up with Children's Hospital, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the United Way to dispense free "fitness prescriptions" for overweight kids.

“When I was thinking about the kids gym,” Cruthird says, “I thought of things that kids like to do — play video games and dance.”

She’s also bringing along a couple of Patriots — the New England football kind — to fire up her young charges.

Just how big is the fight that Cruthird has taken on? Consider this: More than 9 million American kids and teens, almost 1-in-5, are overweight. And 31 percent are at risk for being too heavy.

Some of her toughest competition is in the neighborhood she seeks to change.

“I don't think they shouldn't eat at places like that,” Cruthird says as she walks past a Dunkin' Donuts and Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I think they should learn to eat more in moderation.”

And she wants to get their parents to be coaches, to stem growing rates of heart disease and diabetes.

It's already making a big difference for 10-year-old Maya Getter. 

“My clothes are fitting a lot looser, and it's kinda bugging me,” she says.

As they lose, these kids gain a role model in Cruthird.

“That says to that little kid, ‘I can do this,’” says Sylvia Stevens-Edouard of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “’I am somebody, and somebody from my neighborhood is somebody, and I'm going to be just like her.’”

“I'm dispensing the happy medicine,” Cruthird says. “So we're gonna play. We're gonna have a good time. And children will be able to be children again.”

“She's like a kid,” 10-year-old Maya says, “but ... older.”

An older kid with a prescription for a lifetime.

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