We all know that obesity is the health scourge of America – and especially Mississippi. We also know that reducing obesity rates is an essential key to improving health outcomes generally (not to mention reducing the enormous costs associated with addressing chronic diseases). And that an essential key to reducing obesity is increasing physical activity. What we don’t seem to know is how to get people to move, and to keep them moving.
Public health researchers at UCLA seem to have come up with one damn good answer – dance! Focusing on youth in minority neighborhoods and communities, researchers found that kids will almost universally embrace one kind of dancing or another, depending on culture, custom, and local leadership. African-American kids tend to dig hip-hop; Latino kids gravitate to salsa; Appalachian youngsters go for “talking dance” (sorry, I have no idea what that is!). They’ll not only try it, they’ll stick with it if there’s a program, and program leadership, around to offer it and support it.
UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health is pursuing obesity prevention and reduction in a very big way – to the tune of a $20 million federal grant aimed at urban areas across the country with the complementary weapons of physical activty and better nutrition.
This is great. UCLA is to be applauded, and their programs, no doubt, emulated. But guess what? You don’t need a $20 million dollar grant (nice as that would be) to attack obesity in Mississippi or any place else. You just have to get up and dance! And not just kids, but everybody with two feet (even two left ones). As the saying goes, “If you can walk, you can dance.”