Originally published Aug. 29, 2011
Georgia is serious about addressing childhood obesity which is an epidemic and public health crisis. Today, Georgia has the second highest obesity rate in the nation. This is unacceptable to public health leaders and community partners.
According to the 2010 Georgia Data Summary, 28,000 (24 percent) third grade children are obese. Another 43,000 (15 percent) middle school students are obese including 55,000 (12 percent) high school students are obese. This same report indicates that poor diet and inactivity are reasons for the rise in childhood obesity in Georgia.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its report that showed that nearly 30 percent of Georgians are obese or overweight. Since the release of the report, DPH has responded to inquiries from stakeholders and community partners.
PHWEEK interviewed Chad Neilsen, MPH, Epidemiologist, Chronic Disease, Healthy Behaviors and Injury Epidemiology Unit. Neilsen has responded to numerous inquiries about CDC’s data and the 2010 Georgia Data Summary on obesity.
“From 2007 to 2009 the percentage of obese adults in Georgia declined slightly, so an increase in 2010 is disappointing,” Neilsen said, hopeful that with increased attention the state can reverse course and begin to see numbers decline.
Neilsen says there are many reasons why Americans have become increasingly overweight and obese. “Simply put, as a nation, we intake too many unhealthy calories and have become increasingly more sedentary and less active. Unfortunately, Georgia has not been immune to these trends."
He also points out that the scientific literature has evidence that relates unhealthy eating and sedentary behaviors in adults to behaviors and activities formed during the early years. "The most important ways that Georgia can reduce childhood obesity is by providing healthy environments when kids are away from home and in school.”
He suggests that parents and partners provide healthy meals, better vending options, increased health education, and physical activity.