CDC: State’s school health programs are ‘extraordinary’

TUPELO – National survey results show that Mississippi school health efforts are among the most proactive in the country, a federal health official told Mississippi school health advocates Wednesday.
“We at the CDC look at what’s been done in Mississippi … it’s nothing less than extraordinary,” Howell Wechsler, director of the Centers for Disease Control’s division of adolescent and school health, said during the opening day of the Mississippi Alliance for School Health conference at the BancorpSouth Arena.
Wechsler told 200 educators, school nurses and health advocates that Mississippi’s coordinated approach to school health programs is a model for the nation.
“Your efforts are paying off,” Wechsler said. “But this is no time to slack off. There’s still a long way to go.”
In the 2008 School Health Profiles, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, Mississippi was in the top quarter of states in four key areas:
n Percent of school districts banning all tobacco use on campus.
n Percent of schools health education curriculum that addresses the eight key standards identified by the CDC.
n Percent of schools that have a health council, team or committee.
n Percent of schools that don’t have junk food and sugary sodas available in vending machines on campus.
Wechsler specifically pointed out the improvement in that last category.
“Two years ago, Mississippi was near the bottom,” Wechsler said. “Now you’re very near the top.”
For the nation, it appears that the rate of childhood obesity is flattening out but remains at epidemic levels.
“If we don’t make some major changes,” Wechsler said, “one of three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes. That will break the bank.”

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678-1599 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal