Schools on Front Lines in Childhood Obesity CrisisBy Rhonda Miller | Published 06 Nov 2011 05:37pm |
One out of every five children in Mississippi is obese. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports schools are on the front lines in fighting this health crisis.
"I accidently pulled a muscle on both my arms." Eight-year-old Andrew Murphy isn’t too worried about working some different muscles in his arms. He’s excited about the new fitness equipment at Pecan Park Elementary in Ocean Springs. He says it’s making his muscles stronger.
"I do arm circles and jumping jacks and push-ups and pull-ups," Andrew says.
"Up, up, bicep curls, down, down."
Pecan Park is one of 164 schools in the state that received grants for equipment from Project Fit America. Physical education teacher Fran Fremin says fitness training is an important part of the program.
"They’re working all the different parts of their body. So it does address the obesity problem. As well as what they eat and we do address that in class," Fremin says.
Healthy eating is also being addressed in the school cafeteria. Ocean Springs is one of many school districts across the state taking fryers out of the kitchen.
At a conference on childhood obesity in Biloxi last week, retired teacher Joan Thomas said she sees healthy changes happening in schools. Thomas works with Gulf Coast Health Educators in Pass Christian.
"I look at something as small as not allowing the children to bring cupcakes any more for the parties," says Thomas. "They’re actually encouraging fruit trays and vegetable trays to come in."
Mississippi ranks first in childhood obesity, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, when breathing stops many times during the night.
At the conference, California public health nurse Joe Solowiejczyk said schools can lead the way, but obesity has to be conquered in the home.
"The families change their eating habits, they change their food purchasing behavior, they change their exercise habits, they start walking together," said Solowiejczyk.
Families in Mississippi have their work cut out for them. The state has held the number one ranking for adult obesity seven years in a row.
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