The saying goes, ‘the children are our future’. According to a variety of statewide and regional statistics, our future is wrought with an obesity epidemic.
Members of the Center of Appalachian Philanthropy and the Portsmouth Kiwanis Club held an Appalachian Regional Commission Campaign for Healthy Kids symposium Jan. 23 entitled, “Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Planting Seeds for Change”. The scope of the information discussion revolved around a need for change in our focus as a community.
“Obesity is much too accepted in our community. Statistically, we are the most unhealthy county in the state of Ohio and it is time for us to place our focus on making a change and that starts with our children,” said Sharon Carver, RN, Center for Appalachian Philanthropy.
Executive Director of the Center for Appalachian Philanthropy, Mandy Hart said the conference was a way to share with community members the extreme need to take steps to make a change. “We need to change as a community and start focusing on healthy lifestyles. Childhood obesity is an epidemic that we can control if we work together.”
The conference also hosted speakers from Faith United to End Childhood Obesity, Ohio Association of Food Banks and the Campaign for Healthy Kids. Each gave a 10 minute overview of the programs, grants and services available in partnership with Scioto and Lewis County, Kentucky’s efforts make a change in the community.
“Living in a lower economic region has been linked to poor health and to individuals dying at a younger age,” said Eric Stockton, Appalachian Regional Authority representative. “Because we know this, we know we can begin to fix it. It takes resources and a community working together.”
In addition to this conference The Center for Appalachian Philanthropy has also organized several community events through their AppaKids program such as the recent Healthy Kids Fair that shared various ways to eat right and exercise while having fun.
“You have to educate and organize. You have to focus on the home, the schools and the community at large. It all plays into the environment that ultimately influences our healthy lifestyles,” said Vinny DeMarco, national coordinator for Faith United to End Childhood Obesity.
Carver presented statewide statistics that showed that in 2011, one in three children were considered overweight or obese. Scioto County ranks 87 of 88 counties in Ohio for health outcomes (diabetes, early death, obesity, etc.) and 88 of 88 counties in health factors (tobacco usage, unhealthy food choices, lack of exercise, etc.).
“Some experts believe that if obesity among kids continues to increase, our current generation will be the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents,” Carver emphasized. “Together, we can change this and build a stronger community.”