The Kidz Bite Back Initiative

State: FL Type: Model Practice Year: 2008

Reduce the incidence and prevalence of childhood obesity. Raise awareness among children and parents about deceptive marketing practices of fast food, junk food, soda, video game and television industries. Improve nutrition and physical activity practices of fourth and fifth grade students.
The Kidz Bite Back Initiative addresses the major public health issue of childhood obesity, physical activity, and nutrition. Nationwide there has been a steady increase in the proportion of children who are overweight. In 1980 only six percent of children ages 6-17 were overweight, this rate climbed to 18 percent in 2004 (America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2007). The state of Florida’s prevalence for overweight and obesity for the year 2006 was comparable to the Nations rates (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System). The Kidz Bite Back Initiative addresses the issue of childhood obesity through social marketing and prevention strategy practices specializing in childhood obesity prevention. The initiative uses a comprehensive approach by integrating five campaigns into one effort that targets two audiences of children ages 9-11 and parents. The five campaigns focus on the major contributors of childhood obesity; school environment, fast food, and junk food industries (Big Fat Industries), video game and television industries (Couch Potato Companies), parents and household, and the influence of cultural norms. This grassroots campaign encourages kids to fight against the Big Fat Industries and Couch Potato Companies and holds parents accountable for their children being overweight or obese. All campaigns have been formally and independently evaluated and proven effective in changing opinions, attitudes, and behaviors of the target audience. The campaigns are edgy and compelling; similar to the national "Truth" campaign used for teen anti-tobacco efforts. The countermarketing strategies are confrontational and directed toward the deceptive marketing practices of the fast food, soft drink, and junk food companies, as well as the television networks and video game companies. The Kidz Bite Back campaign is the only elementary-school-based grassroots effort in the nation formed by countermarketing campaigns. Kids who participate in the campaign usually become more knowledgeable than most adults on the topic, which equips them with the knowledge to spread the word to their peers and family. This strategy has been proven to be more effective than adults preaching or lecturing to kids.
Agency Community RolesThe Kidz Bite Back Initiative is spearheaded by two neighboring health departments in the Tampa Bay Area, Hillsborough County and Pinellas County Health Department. The health departments were involved in planning and budgeting for the initiative. In addition, the health departments created an advisory board comprising sponsors, evaluators, and program planners. Both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties assist in funding the initiative in their respective counties. The health departments were instrumental in recruiting the participating schools by working closely with their school board partners. The school board partnership was a crucial piece of this project. The school board assisted with creating buy-in from the public schools regarding participation. Moreover, the school board provided technical support to program coordinators regarding protocols and policies within the schools. The partners’ (Pinellas and Hillsborough County Health Departments, Pinellas County School Board, Baycare Health Systems, and Allegany Franciscan Ministries) role in planning and implementation of the initiative is quite unique. In addition to providing funding, the sponsors contributed their opinions and recommendations to many aspects of implementation such as design of the program and best approaches. Through the implementation of Kidz Bite Back and formation of the Advisory Board (Pinellas County Health Department, Hillsborough County Health Department, Pinellas County School Board, University of South Florida, Dewey and Associates, Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Baycare Health Systems, Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness), the Pinellas and Hillsborough County Health Departments are able to initiate collaboration amongst the community, stakeholders, and sponsors. This collaboration has provided the initiative for professional advice and diverse inputs all fostering a community effort to address childhood obesity. Costs and ExpendituresFunding sources contributed a total of $225,000 in addition to in-kind costs. ImplementationThe Kidz Bite Back curriculum is designed to be informative and engaging for both students and teachers and can easily be incorporated into existing programs. The entire initiative is outlined to occur within a three-year period, with yearly evaluations occurring through pre/posts-tests, BMIs, and general qualitative assessments. The program was created using successful teen tobacco prevention programs as a template. The peer-to-peer strategy is accomplished by training two fourth and fifth grade students per class as Kid Advocates to diffuse the Kidz Bite Back message throughout their peers. Each participating school counts on the support of a designated Teacher Advocate to facilitate the youth leadership efforts and provide programmatic support. The Kid and Teacher Advocates are trained on all aspects of the campaign. Each year, the program includes: A fourth and fifth grade school kick-off assembly, Education of all fourth and fifth graders on the messages of Kidz Bite Back, utilizing evidence-based curricula, A variety of school activities such as video contests, letter-writing campaigns, participation of the “Big Fat Blog,” Usage of the Web-based tool “Big Fat Math,” which allows children to calculate how much physical activity is needed to burn off popular fast food, junk food, and soda items, and The introduction of physical activity before tests and exams.
The Kidz Bite Back pilot program in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Florida has been formally evaluated for changes in opinions and attitudes towards nutrition and exercise, and for changes in behavior and reduction in BMI (body mass index). Year-two evaluation results indicated significant changes in kids’ opinions and attitudes regarding the Big Fat Industries (fast food, junk food, and soda industries), and potential behavior changes in less consumption of fast food, soft drinks and junk food. In addition, cultural changes are being evaluated. The pilot program evaluation results found that 71 percent of the students reported changes in their behavior as a result of Kidz Bite Back. Furthermore, 38 percent of students reported they modified their eating behavior, and 33 percent of the fourth and fifth graders parents reported they saw a change in their child’s behavior as a result of Kidz Bite Back.
The Kidz Bite Back Initiative is currently ongoing, therefore it is still too early to decipher stakeholder commitment. However, as the program spreads and gains momentum there will be options for sustainability. In addition, current stakeholders had such a critical role in the initiative that it created a sense of ownership amongst them, which might forecast ongoing support. Plans for expansion of the initiative have been discussed with the state department of health and the school board. The consultant for the initiative has aggressively marketed the practice to Funders Forums and state non-profit foundations. The goal for sustainability is to expand the program throughout the state of Florida and base it out of the local health departments, similar to how the program is currently designed. The long-term goal is for the Kidz Bite Back Initiative to become a national model in school-based childhood obesity prevention programs.