The onset of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles begins in childhood, and efforts to arrest this enormous public health problem must begin during that phase of life, said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). And Georgia’s problem needs serious attention.
“Georgia has the number-two highest incidence of childhood obesity in the nation,” Fitzgerald said, according to the Times-Georgian.
According to the Carroll County newspaper, Fitzgerald said that’s where Georgia SHAPE can help. Speaking to a meeting of the Carrollton Rotary Club, Fitzgerald described the initiative, which was launched by Gov. Nathan Deal and passed by the state legislature in 2009. Officials launched a pilot program in five counties to determine the extent of childhood obesity in Georgia.
“The data showed that 43 percent of children have an unhealthy weight,” Fitzgerald told the Times-Georgian. “For fifth graders, it’s 48 percent.”
When given a physical fitness test, only 16 percent of children were able to pass all five portions; 20 percent of children didn’t pass a single part.
The Georgia SHAPE initiative is working across the state to help children live healthier, more active lifestyles. DPH is collaborating with the Governor’s office and other state agencies, as well as organizations such as the Blank Foundation, the Falcons Foundation, the Atlanta Braves and Coca-Cola. SHAPE’s efforts focus on promoting opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating, and also emphasize the importance of breastfeeding and other habits linked to healthy weight.
Georgia SHAPE’s website, www.georgiashape.org, helps users identify opportunities for healthy living in their neighborhoods. By entering a ZIP code, users can search for fitness resources and opportunities located in their area. They can also search the SHAPE calendar for events in their area, such as farmers markets, 5k races or group hikes.