By: Laura-Jane Hatcher (WRGA News)
The largest health crisis facing Georgia school children right now isn’t a virus or an infection.
It’s obesity. According to a speech given last week by Brenda Fitzgerald, the state’s chief public health official, Georgia is in second place for having the highest rates of childhood obesity in the nation, trailing only behind Mississippi. A fitness exam that measures health indicators like BMI and flexibility was recently given to over 1 million school children in the state.
Fitzgerald relayed the dismal results to an audience at the University of Georgia’s State of Public Health Conference.
“Only 16% of Georgia’s School Children tested---it was about 99% of the schools and about a million children---and only 16% of Georgia’s children were able to pass all simple parts of the fitness exam,” Fitzgerald said. “And, only 20% of the babies didn’t pass anything.”
To combat this growing epidemic, local public health agencies have been really zeroing in on the issue, including Northwest Georgia’s Public Health Department. Spokesman Logan Boss said his agency has been promoting the ‘eat less, move more’ philosophy to both adults and children alike in the region.
“There are two key components to ensure that any initiatives to combat childhood obesity and obesity in general are a success; First, is a recognition that we all have to take a personal responsibility when it comes to managing our weight---the decision on whether to exercise or supersize our meals ultimately rests on you and me,” Boss said.
“The second component involves working together to make sure our communities are more conducive to practices and choices that will help curtail obesity.”
The problem is dire, Boss said, and costly. According to him, Georgians spend up to 3 billion dollars a year on obesity-related costs. And, research indicates 80% of overweight children will grow up to be obese.