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Challenge of Childhood Obesity Draws Health Experts to Mississippi

By Rhonda Miller | Published 03 Nov 2011 09:43pm | comments
Michelle Lombardo presents the nutritional education program Organ Wise Guys.

Mississippi is the fattest state in the nation and obese adults are passing bad eating and lifestyle habits down to their children.  In the continuing struggle to conquer childhood obesity, MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports how health experts from the around the country are offering their best ideas in Biloxi this week.

"You skipped out on your cereal, you walked out on your waffle."

Health professionals say children will make healthier choices if it’s fun.  Michelle Lombardo is president of Organ Wise Guys Inc., a nutritional education program that’s in public schools in the city of Jackson, the Delta and Harrison County.

"Sir Rebrum the brain, Madame Muscle, Luigi Liver," Lombardo says. "They’re organs that live inside children, and basically, they’re like, ‘Man we love who we live in kids, but please, you gotta help us out in here’."

A research study of the Wise Guys program found children taking part have reductions in waist circumference, body/mass percentile and blood pressure. They also had improved academic performance.

"Avoid talking about the word weight."

Adults have to be aware of unconsciously presenting negative attitudes. Eating disorder specialist Ralph Carson works at Pine Grove treatment center in Hattiesburg, and says the right words can encourage good choices.

"So, diet has a certain connotation. It means kind of restrict, do without. For other people it means, I tried that and I failed," says Carson. "Some people like the word 'meal plan', some people like 'healthy living habits.'  We just have to begin to use different terminology."

Most people generally agree on what constitutes good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. The problem is, habits can be hard to break and large-scale change is often slow.

California nurse and social worker Joe Solowiejczyk points out even the programs in place don’t have enough funding.

"Don’t have enough money to buy band-aids. Don’t have enough money to provide adequate services that are far-reaching and comprehensive from a social perspective, as well as from a psychological perspective," he says.

While Mississippi has been trying to slim down, it has remained the most obese state in the nation for the past several years.

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Michelle Lombardo presents the nutritional education program Organ Wise Guys.


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