Saturday, December 1, 2012

Childhood Obesity: A community issue

It was 7:30 a.m., and bus loads of children from Atlanta’s Boys and Girls Club, neighboring high schools and local churches had already gathered at Piedmont Park. A cool breeze wafted over the eastern side of the park. The sky was overcast. Grey clouds threatened to rain. The rhythmic sounds of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” vibrated through the park. Vendors and healthcare professionals had tables lined with pamphlets and various paraphernalia. Fulton County Sheriffs were on hand.  

On Sept. 29, 2012, the City of Atlanta celebrated the fourth anniversary of “Walk it off: Communities Fighting Childhood Obesity.” The event included a three-mile walk around the park and several performances from two local churches’ youth groups.

The event was launched as a dream of President and CEO Diane Jenkins, of Community Life Concepts. The organization has programs geared towards youth mentoring and development through its after-school programs. Within this environment, Jenkins believes that she and her staff will be able to make positive impact on the lives of the children.

“We make sure that the children are allotted time for physical activities. We are not only concerned about their academic performance. We need them to be healthy and fit,” said Jenkins.

According to Jenkins, the community walk event was made possible through the support of corporations like Coca-Cola which provided drinks and water for the participants. Other vendors provided Granola bars and healthy snacks.

In addition, organizations such as Peach State Health Plan, AFLAC and, were on hand to help educate parents on how to ensure that their children maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

For instance, handed out surveys to the teenagers and young children. The survey questions ranged from asking if the youths were drinking enough water daily, to how many times within the last two days did they consume sugar-sweetened beverages.

Also, fitness instructors led the crowd into a three minute, energetic dance to the “Electric Slide”. Next, U.S. Rep. John Lewis spoke to the youths.

The congressman said, “Youths, if you want to be healthy you must think healthy. Put down the video games and go outdoors to play. Leave the sodas and sweets alone.
“We don’t want you to die young.”

To end the day’s activities, Jenkins encouraged parents to take an active role in the health of their children. She urged the 400 participants to spread the word that childhood obesity is on the rise and communities must come together to combat this issue.

Jenkins said, “This is all about bringing awareness to childhood obesity in our communities. Georgia has too many children who are obese. We need to do something.”

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