Experts share strategies to fight childhood obesity in MS

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For seven straight years now, Mississippi has led the nation in childhood obesity. On Friday, people who work with children joined forces in Biloxi to learn new strategies to fight the obesity epidemic. While they heard about disturbing trends linked to overweight children, there was also some encouraging news.

More than 100 people who are on the front lines in the battle against childhood obesity in Mississippi gathered at the Biloxi Civic Center. The participants work directly with children and they learned some simple steps to get youngsters up and moving.

"We're trying to do our part in getting the word out that this is a serious epidemic," said Deborah Colby, Gulf Coast Health Educators Executive Director.

The organization "Gulf Coast Health Educators" invited nurses, social workers, teachers, preschool employees, and youth organizations to the "Conquering Childhood Obesity Conference" in Biloxi. The topics focused on the link between obesity and depression, and the disturbing rise in diabetes among children.

"If we don't reverse the trend, one in three of these children will develop type-2 diabetes in their lifetime. And parents may actually outlive their kids and I don't think any parent wants to outlive their child," said Colby.

Speakers also shared ideas on ways to help motivate families to change their habits, and a McDonald's dietician discussed healthier choices on fast food menus. The Mississippi Department of Education also discussed the progress schools are making to help promote fitness, nutrition, and physical activity.

"There is a 13-percent decrease in childhood obesity in some grade students. So we're so fortunate to have great laws in place. We have great programs in place, and we just got to keep on telling the story," said Christine Philley, MDE School Health Administrator.

"I'm hoping through this and with WLOX's help and the media, we can get the community at large to understand the seriousness of the problem. Children do not outgrow weight problems, they only get worse," said Colby.

On Saturday, the city of Biloxi will co-host a "Childhood Obesity Family Day". Parents and children can learn about bullying, proper exercise, and how to prepare healthy meals. The event runs from 10 AM-2PM at the Biloxi Civic Center on Howard Avenue.

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