Obesity is a growing problem among American children. CBS 2 HD's Dr. Max Gomez reports on an innovative new program aimed at combatting it.

NEW YORK (CBS 2) – The problem is getting worse: Nearly half of young people in the United States are overweight or obese.

Generations of kids of are looking at a future with diabetes, cancer, heart disease, back, hip and knee problems – just to name a few.

A new innovative program called “Health For Life” is working to tackle the problem head-on.

“I’ve always wanted to be skinny and not chunky,” said Jordan Rivera, a 12-year-old participant of the program.

Getting children to exercise is important. The hard part is making it fun and coming up with activities that city kids can do without a lot of equipment or facilities.

While weight loss is easily measured, the real goal is much bigger.

“The program is about developing healthy lifestlyes,” said Dr. Maura Frank of the Komansky Center For Children’s Health. “It’s a long term program. It’s not a quick fix.”

Another important area is healthy eating. The kids work with dieticians to learn how to make healthy food choices.

“I used to eat a lot of chips, soda, pizza – a lot of pizza, burgers,” said Holly Neal, 14. “Just a lot of junk food.”

It’s a team effort that also includes social workers, physicians, physical therapists and trainers.

Michael, Mariela and Holly completed the 10 week program successfully. They lost weight, kept it off and gained other benefits.

“It was easier for me to know how to eat,” said Mariela, 12.

Michael, 18, said the program has made his self-esteem skyrocket.

“I wasn’t very confident at all, I didn’t participate in pretty much anything,” he said. “Once I started eating and changing my diet, I noticed I was losing the weight and I wanted to go a little bit more.”

Kids also get a medical evaluation at the beginning of the program, and there’s a class for parents as well, as they are an integral part of both the problem and solution.

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