OBESITYSome improvement seen in state’s fight

Published 9:55 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mississippi carries with it many derogatory connotations. Poorest. Least-educated. Fattest.

Times, it seems, are changing. Two studies released in November show that obesity among the state’s school-age children is on the decline. The move downward is still painfully slow, and the obesity rate in Mississippi still poses challenges, but moving in the right direction for a state that has a history of being resistant to change is a direction we can approve.

A 2011 survey found that obesity among the state’s high school students fell to 16.5 percent from 18.1 percent in 2009. It also dropped the state from No. 1 fattest nationally to No. 5. In grades kindergarten through 12th, the obesity rate fell to 40.9 percent from 43.9 percent from 2005. The state health department said the findings “are not statistically significant.”

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We disagree.

A greater focus on school meals, eating fresh food and staying away from the fryer, coupled with a push to eat local, fresh food certainly has had an effect not just on waistlines but attitudes as well. Any change in the state’s health as it relates to obesity will have to begin with the younger generation’s formative years. A continued emphasis on exercise and healthy eating habits can provide nothing but positive change.

Such progress cannot be said of the state’s adult population, which continues to expand the state’s waistline. A study by Trust for America and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that by 2030, two-thirds of all Mississippi adults are projected to be obese. As a result, the study concluded that Mississippi will retain the title as “the fattest state in the nation for at least the next two decades.”

That adage about not teaching old dogs new tricks is somewhat true, but all hope is not lost. If the adults can make a concerted effort to see the tangible — if not statistical — changes in how the younger generations see healthy eating, certainly change can come.

Much change comes slowly, but it is coming in the fight against obesity.

We just cannot let up now.