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New Study Shows Improvement in Childhood Obesity Rates

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 10 Jul 2013 06:00am | comments

Obesity rates among Mississippi school children appear to be declining. A new report shows a sharp decrease among elementary age students. 


 A report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation now shows that while Mississippi still has among the highest rates of childhood obesity, it is also seeing some of the fastest declines in obesity.


Dwayne Proctor with the Foundation says more Mississippi kids are losing the pounds.


"The state has ranked at the bottom of all states across the nation. But is now ranked among the top states in decreasing childhood obesity. Showing a 13.3% decline in childhood obesity rates among students in grade K-5. So that is really exciting news," Proctor said.


Proctor credits a series of anti-obesity policies implemented in Mississippi schools in 2007 including improved nutrition in lunches and mandatory physical education for young students.


However, these declines are not universal.


Poor students as well as African-American and Latino students are not seeing declines that sharp.


One community highlighted by the Foundation is Hernando, Mississippi.


Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson says decreasing childhood obesity takes an all out effort to create healthy opportunities.


"We mandated sidewalks in all new developments since 200 in our town. back during the boom we put in miles of sidewalk at no expense to the taxpayer. So people can literally walk out their door and go wherever they want to on foot. And if that opportunity is not there, that is not going to happen," Johnson said.


The improvements among young students could also beginning to have an effect on older students.


State health officer Dr. Mary Currier says obesity among high school students is also beginning to fall.


"We went from 18.1% of our 9th through 12th graders being obese in 2009 to 15.8% in 2011. So we went from #1 to #5," Currier said.


Currier says a key step now is finding a way to take these lessons to a broader, more adult audience because the state's adult obesity rate remains the highest in the nation.





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