Across Louisiana, the future waddles along at risk. The tragic numbers of young people who are overweight and clinically obese is one of the most comprehensive disasters facing this state, as researchers have documented the damage done in the lives of children by fatty and unhealthy diets and a lack of exercise.

These are preventable disasters, because the slow impact of poor health decisions can be turned around, by families and physicians with increasingly sophisticated strategies to intervene in the lives of obese children.

One means to avoid the ghastly social and economic costs of childhood obesity is to target new parents as well as the children who are seeing doctors early on.

The depth and breadth of scientific research at Louisiana’s universities into obesity and its effects also can fuel new approaches.

Into the space between research and treatment comes a collaboration between LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center and New Orleans’ Baptist Community Ministries.

A new Childhood Obesity Treatment Toolkit features comprehensive information for pediatricians on evaluating childhood obesity, including approaches for treatment.

The toolkit is one of the ways that Louisiana can do more to make healthy living a standard for families. Pennington’s executive director, William T. Cefalu, says the kit provides a starting point to begin and continue the conversation about developing healthy lifestyles earlier so children are less likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions.

The toolkit isn’t the only solution to such a chronic social malaise, but it is another step forward to push family involvement in health, including encouraging parents to model healthy eating and a physically active lifestyle.

Among the research done by Pennington and other universities is the role of smartphone apps and text messages to replace, hopefully more effectively, the old food pyramid posters.

Doctors often have limited time with patients, noted Cefalu, a physician — so the toolkit is a way to make nutrition and healthy lifestyles a quick but effective topic of intervention in the patients’ lives. Some of the recent research at Pennington and elsewhere has focused on the psychology of the doctor-patient relationship, and that is built into the toolkit’s tips on talking about weight problems.

This is the way that academic research at Louisiana universities, as well as the clinical work on diet and medicines that is done at Pennington’s Baton Rouge campus, can make a long-term and positive impact in the lives of Louisiana’s children.