Midstate still faces weighty fight

mstucka@macon.comNovember 10, 2010 

  • Obesity in Middle Georgia counties

    Percentage of obese adults in Middle Georgia counties
    Bibb: 30.8 percent
    Crawford: 30.1 percent
    Houston: 30.8 percent
    Jones: 29.6 percent
    Monroe: 29.6 percent
    Peach: 30.3 percent
    Twiggs: 30.5 percent

    Source: State estimates of 2007, released in January 2010

PERRY — Middle Georgia’s obesity problems were again in the spotlight Tuesday as about 200 people tried to find ways to trim communities’ pants sizes.

Chris Parker, a research associate with the Georgia Health Policy Center, said his statistics at the second annual Central Georgia Regional Health Summit are about as dire as the numbers he shared last year.

“The truth has not changed a lot from the last time we spoke. One way of me saying it is, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’’’ he said, directing a quip at the county that hosted the event.

The meeting at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter focused on Bibb County and the six counties next to it. Community Health Works CEO Greg Dent, whose organization was behind the health summit, said participants were motivated to push for improvements in the deep-rooted obesity problems.

“I think it’s going to lead to community action. We’re going to make little steps that lead to big steps,” he said.

Since last year, for example, schools in Twiggs and Crawford counties have opened their athletic tracks to community use after school. Crawford County also is moving toward getting junk food out of vending machines in favor of healthier choices, Dent said.

Other changes are in the works. Joy Goens of Mercer University said officials are investigating whether a community-owned grocery store is feasible in Macon.

Meanwhile, Bibb County’s schools are working to make it easier for students to walk to school, said David Gowan, the system’s director of risk management. Gowan said he’d heard of 8- and 9-year-old children in the county with signs of diabetes and heart disease.

Jim Lidstone, director of the Center for Health and Social Issues at Georgia College & State University, described efforts to make Milledgeville friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists.

When the school system built centralized schools years ago, it cut them off from neighborhoods. Lidstone said people are now working to build paths under three major roads so children can walk or bike to school. Other efforts include putting healthy snacks in schools and launching community gardens, he said.

But participants said most people generally have a decent knowledge of how to be healthy.

Parker said the challenge has been moving people from knowing they should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables to actually incorporating five servings of fruits and vegetables into their diets.

Cherita Andrews, a contestant on the television show “The Biggest Loser,” lost about a third of her weight by choosing the right foods and exercise.

Andrews, from Houston, Texas, held up a pair of black pants between widely stretched arms to show what she wore before she lost 91 poumds.

“I changed the choices, and I am evidence that if you change the choices, you change the outcome,” she said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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