Small gains for Mississippi, but long road ahead

By Micheala Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity, but the state has made some significant strides in the past two years.
Last fall, Mississippi was recognized for making a dramatic difference in school environments by the Centers for Disease Control division of adolescent and school health.
Mississippi was in the top quarter of states in the percentage of schools banning tobacco on campus, implementing comprehensive health education, setting up school health teams and getting sugary soda and junk food out of campus vending machines.
“Two years ago, Mississippi was near the bottom,” said Howell Wechsler, division director during a presentation in Tupelo. “Now you’re very near the top.”
Schools alone won’t be able to turn the tide, but there are some indications that the state may be getting some traction.
A 2009 University of Southern Mississippi study showed that 23.9 percent of Mississippi students were overweight or obese, compared to 25.5 percent in 2005.
There’s still plenty to be done. The Health People 2010 goal was to reduce the childhood obesity rate to 5 percent.