1 in 4 Georgia Third-Graders Obese

Atlanta (GA) – The Georgia Department of Human Resources announced today the release of Obesity in Georgia’s 3rd Grade Children, a report compiling the results of height and weight measurements of a statewide sample of elementary school-aged children in Georgia.

The study found that 43% of Georgia third graders were either overweight (19%) or obese (24%). Particularly alarming was that one in four Georgia third graders (24%) were obese, almost five times the percentage (5%) of obese third graders in the U.S. standard population distribution. Girls were more likely to be obese (25%) than boys (22%). Black children were more likely to be obese (27%) than white children (21%). Children from low socioeconomic households were more likely to be obese (26%) than those from high socioeconomic households (21%). In addition, children from rural areas were more likely to be obese (26%) than children from metropolitan Atlanta (21%). Obesity in children is associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep apnea, low self-esteem and poor academic performance.
“We're seeing a number of serious health effects resulting from being overweight and obese,” said Dr. Stuart Brown, director of the Division of Public Health. “If we continue on this same path, Georgia’s children run the risk of being the first generation to live sicker and die younger than their parents."

In July 2005, in an effort to reverse Georgia’s obesity epidemic and the disease burden it causes, the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR) released the state’s first comprehensive nutrition and physical activity plan. Georgia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan to Prevent and Control Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases, 2005-2015 provides a comprehensive approach that includes schools, families, communities, and health care professionals to improve healthy eating, increase physical activity, and decrease television viewing/screen time in children.

“It’s a complex issue,” said Frances Cook, Nutrition Section Director with DHR’s Division of Public Health. “Obesity is affected by a number of factors. In addition to lifestyle choices, we must also address policies and environmental factors that contribute to people becoming overweight and obese.”

To create sustainable change, Georgians must implement policies that provide physical education, and safe and healthy school and community environments. Health care professionals can assist by routinely tracking patient’s body mass index (BMI) and offering appropriate counseling and guidance to children and their families. To solve Georgia’s childhood obesity epidemic, families must understand their key role in engaging in and promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles together as families.

In addition, schools can provide answers by implementing strategies suggested in Georgia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan, including:
- Improving the nutritional quality of foods and beverages served and sold in schools and as part of school-related activities;
- Increasing opportunities for frequent, more intensive, and engaging physical activity during and after school, including daily physical education in schools in grades K-12;
- Implementing school-based interventions to reduce the amount of time children spend doing sedentary activities such as viewing television, playing video games, and using a computer;
- Developing, implementing, and evaluating innovative programs for both staffing and teaching about wellness, healthy eating, and physical activity.

To view the Obesity in Georgia’s 3rd Grade Children report or Georgia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan, visit http://health.state.ga.us/programs/nutrition/publications.asp. Being active and eating healthy are two of the components of the Live Healthy Georgia campaign launched by Governor Sonny Purdue and the Department of Human Resources. For more information about Live Healthy Georgia, as well as information about how to eat healthier and be more active, visit www.livehealthygeorgia.org.

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