Symposium to address childhood obesity issue


Staff Writer

BRICK — Dr. Thaddeus R. Leoniak believes the road to combating the problem of childhood obesity can begin in Brick.

Leoniak, a township-based eye physician and surgeon, is a member of Ocean Medical Center’s Community Advisory Committee. Not long ago the committee members decided they wanted to do something that would make a statement to the community.

One problem society faces is childhood obesity, which is important because it may lead to other health problems. Leoniak said childhood obesity “will ultimately put a tremendous drain on our society.”

Thus, Ocean Medical Center, along with several community leaders such as Mayor Joseph Scarpelli and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Seidenberger, have come together to present the “Root Causes of Childhood Obesity: A Working Symposium.” The symposium will be held Nov. 18, beginning at 3:30 p.m., in the east wing conference center at the hospital on Jack Martin Boulevard.

“We’re trying to reach out to the community at large,” Leoniak said.

Leoniak, who co-chairs the symposium with former high school principal Joseph Tomaselli, said the event will have an interactive format so that educators, parents, legislators, medical professionals and the public can discuss childhood obesity as a group.

The idea is to examine why children become that way — to talk about dietary habits, meals at schools and the lack of activity. There’s also a psychological component that plays a part, Leoniak said.

At about noon that day another meeting will take place with legislators specifically, because, Leoniak said, it is important to see what they can bring to the table.

The evening portion will include a featured speaker, a panel presentation and open discussion.

The speaker, Sylvia Rimm, is a child psychologist who has written many books, including “Rescuing the Emotional Lives of Overweight Children.” She has appeared on “20/20” and was a regular contributing correspondent for nine years on the “Today” show.

Organizers said the goal is for Brick to become an example to other communities on how to deal with childhood obesity in the future.

“The intent is the establish a program that is ongoing,” Leoniak said.

Scarpelli said that after the symposium is over, the organizers want to work on getting grants to help implement programs that will address childhood obesity, and health issues in general. He said the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has grants available through a healthy communities initiative for walking and bicycle paths, among other things.

The last day to register for the symposium is Nov. 12. The cost, which includes dinner, is $25. To register, call (800) 560-9990.