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Schools, summer camps give tools to help children battle obesity

Battling obesity

Georgia has the second highest number of obese children in the country. (WRDW-TV / July 8, 2011)

News 12 First at Five / July 8, 2011

You hear time and time again that obesity is on the rise -- but recent research backs up the claims.

A third of all children in the U.S. are overweight or obese.That national number is also hitting close to home.

According to a new report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Georgia has the second highest rate of childhood obesity for 10-to-17-year-olds in the country. This means Georgia will continue its battle of the bulge.

When you think of the word obesity, certain images come to mind, and Richmond County is counting on kids to combat those images. Some kids are staying active with summer camps like one at the YMCA and are constantly on the go.

"We rarely have downtime in camp, they are usually always running around playing games or doing some sort of activity, we don't show movies often or that kind of stuff," said Carie Bugos, a YMCA program director.

She said the key to keeping kids occupied involves a little trickery.

"We use games, group games, we obviously bring them here swimming, which they have no clue they are getting any exercise," she said. "They think they are playing the whole time."

The school system recognizes the need to find out how active kids really are. Starting this fall, there are new state guidelines that require every student to have a fitness assessment each year.

Louis Svehla with the Richmond County School system said that in grades 1-12 every child will be given a fitness standard test where they will take weight, height and test cardiovascular-type items that will be conducted by a certified physical education instructor.

Those test results will be passed on to parents and the state.

Healthy living doesn't just involve physical activity -- nutrition also plays a huge part.

"Sometimes you may hear, 'Well I don't like the way it tastes or I don't like this,' it is because we try to make sure our food is healthy, trying for a food or vegetable on every plate," Svehla said.

There is only so much the schools can do, and at summer camps like the YMCA, kids have to pack their own lunches.

"It is hard to sometimes see their snack choices and sometimes their lunch choices aren't what you would hope they would be, but we try to focus on how important it is to eat the right snacks and the right lunch,"
Bugos said.

And the rest is up to parents.

It's not just children who are struggling with this obesity problem, the report also finds South Carolina has the eight highest rate of adult obesity.

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