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Georgia obesity rate rises 27 percent; health officials take action

According to a study, Georgia's obesity rate increased 27.7 percent from 2009

A new study shows that 30.4 percent of people in the Peach State are obese: A 27.7 increase percent from 2009, health officials say.

According to Southwest Georgia Public Health, seven of the counties they serve have high rates of obesity and the other seven are in the mid-range.

"We're in a society now where everything's fast paced, it's easier to go through a drive through window that's only a dollar to save money but in the long term it costs us money because of our health," says Health Promotion Coordinator David Cooper.

Cooper says society is about what's easy, even if it means driving around to find the closest parking spot; but he says parking in the first available spot which is further away can make a difference in a person's lifestyle. Cooper says taking a few extra steps is a small step toward lowering the state's obesity rate.

"For us to get our numbers to come down with obesity, we're going to have to take a self evaluation and look at ourselves, look at our daily lives," Cooper says.

New programs are in the works to look at children's daily lives, such as the Georgia SHAPE Act, which will give students a fitness assessment at the beginning and end of the school year. The program was tested in five school systems and will be implemented in the upcoming school year.

"I actually worked on the shape act a couple years ago with former senator Joe Carter, the Georgia Coalition for Physical Activity and Nutrition and several other agencies," says local Youth Becoming Healthy (YBH) Founder Pamela Green-Jackson. "What we're trying to do is focus on kids and even go beyond into the Pre-K and Head Start programs so we're able to work with them much earlier."

Health officials say targeting Georgia's youth and giving them access to health programs is a key step to lowering the state's obesity rate.

"If you walk around the school system and see kids in Parks and Rec, you can see an obesity problem starting at an early age," says Cooper.

Jackson's YBH program is also tackling childhood obesity, offering a local afterschool resource for children who want to exercise and get healthy.

"If you have an obese child, the likelihood of them becoming an obese adult... and by the time you get adult, my age, it's harder to lose the weight," says Jackson.

Jackson says many people are not being accepted into the military because they do not meet the fitness requirements, which she says is in part to the obesity epidemic.

YBH is entering its seventh year, and there are plans to expand to two surrounding counties in the coming year.

Health officials encourage children and thier parents to participate in the Parks and Rec's seventh annual 5K walk-run and one mile fun-run on Friday, July 22 beginning at 8 a.m. at Albany State University's Hampton Smith Sports Complex Track Field. The event is sponsored by Youth Becoming Healthy, the Dougherty County Health Department, Southwest Health District's Child Health Program and many more. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

While Georgia's obesity rate rose it doesn't quite reach the fattest state, Mississippi, which has a 34.5 percent obesity rate, but does exceed the national average of 27.6 percent.

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