Dr. Michael Forster

Finally, some good news on childhood obesity

Welcome good news from the Center for Mississippi Health Policy (an outstanding research organization that regularly engages College of Health faculty in its work)  – Data from their well-designed longitudinal study of child and youth obesity prevalence (CAYPOS), reported in “Year Three Report: Assessing the Impact of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act,” show a significant decline in the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity in elementary students.  (In fact, a decline of overweight/obesity was found for all grades, but not to a statistically significant level.)  In the words of the report’s executive summary, the gains represent “a major shift in direction after decades of steady increases.”

For a state that’s been ranked “the fattest in the nation” for several years running, that’s very good news indeed.  Maybe Mississippi is not destined to forever occupy the basement of national health statistics after all. 

Unfortunately, the report also contains lots of not-so-good news.  “Wellness policy” implementation in schools lags in key areas, including health policy council participation, nutrition education, general health education, and full implementation of physical activity programs.  In addition, family surveys indicate more talk than action when it comes to improving nutrition and physical activity in the home environment.  Most distressing is that obesity declines are concentrated among white students, with black kids continuing to show increases; alarmingly, racial disparities appear to be increasing.  Concludes the report, “[I]t is clear that further work is necessary to ensure that health improvements are realized by all students and to counteract decades of negative trends.”

Let’s celebrate this bit of good news, Mississippi, but let’s keep the celebration restrained.  And, please, hold the fried chicken and sweet tea.

Dr. Michael Forster
Dr. Michael Forster

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