EDITORIAL: Health offensives

Mississippi rarely receives praise as a national leader, so when accolades come our way, especially for important issues, there’s reason for celebration.
The Centers for Disease Control, the federal intellectual treasure that monitors and directs much about our health care and well-being nationwide, found in its 2008 School Health Profiles that Mississippi ranks in the top quarter of states in four big categories:
– Percent of schools banning all campus tobacco use.
– Percent of schools whose health education curriculums address the eight key standards set by CDC.
– Percent of schools that have a health council, team or committee.
n Percent of schools banning junk food and sugar-laced soft drinks in vending machines.
Mississippi is also among the states with the highest rates for complete, recommended childhood vaccinations, a prerequisite for enrollment in public schools.
The Mississippi Alliance for School Health, meeting this week in Tupelo, heard the good news from CDC’s Howell Wechsler, the director of adolescent and school health.
Last week, in a related event, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., announced a new program called SHAPE – Strengthening Health and Physical Education – headquartered at HealthWorks!, a children’s health teaching museum in Tupelo. (See Wicker’s commentary on SHAPE is on this page today.)
SHAPE will connect and coordinate resources and services to fight childhood obesity, which is worst and most prevalent in Mississippi among all the states.
The Mayo Clinic, internationally respected, lays out unvarnished facts about childhood obesity and health:
“Although there are some genetic and hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most excess weight is caused by kids eating too much and exercising too little … Children who eat more calories than needed gain weight beyond what’s required to support their growing bodies.”
Extensive research conducted, in part, by Mississippi State University, has found that “over the past 30 years, the number of overweight children and teens has nearly tripled … In the South, the problem is especially evident with rates of overweight exceeding the national average in all states except Florida. Additionally, of the five cities across the country with the highest rates of overweight, three are located in the South: Charleston, W.Va., San Antonio, Texas, and Jackson, Miss.”
In the African-American community, the problem is more intense, creating a special challenge for Mississippi, which has about 38 percent black population.
Many initiatives need to join their efforts and methods to deal with the problem. Many Mississippi’s schools are fully engaged, and follow-through beyond school years is necessary.

NEMS Daily Journal