Obesity Targeted by Task Force in Tennessee Schools

Numerous studies show the ill effects that being obese or overweight have on health. So if you're near the bottom of the 'most-obese states' list, it's likely time to do something about it. When Tennessee found itself in that spot, it began its fight to shed pounds with the formation of the Tennessee Obesity Task Force. Are the odds that the Task Force will succeed in reversing Tennessee's obesity numbers slim to none?

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fighting childhood obesity in tennessee

Poor Stats for the Volunteer State

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about 30% of adults in Tennessee did not participate in physical activity. During the same year, a Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the CDC found that 32% of adolescents between ninth and 12th grades were overweight or obese. In 2010, it was estimated that just over 20% of all children in Tennessee were obese.

While there have been some improvements (Tennessee has moved from second to fourth on the above-mentioned list), it is estimated that well over 60% of Tennesseans are still categorized as obese or overweight.

Enter the Obesity Task Force.

Fighting the Good Fight

In 2007, Tennessee began to fight back against those dreadful statistics.

The Obesity Task Force formed as the result of a coalition of, among others, nutritionists, school officials and state policymakers joining with the Tennessee Department of Health's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program. Work groups were then developed that each focused on a specific area, such as Schools, Early Childcare and Health Systems.

The Task Force began it's 'Eat Well, Play More' program in 2010. The goal of the program is to get both youth and adults eating right and engaging in an adequate amount of physical activity. Schools quickly became a target for the plan. In September 2010, Tennessee Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper said in a press release: 'The children of Tennessee are not immune to this devastating health challenge.'

Targeting Childhood Obesity

One of the main focuses of the Task Force is to monitor school compliance with the state-mandated 90-minutes-per-week physical education requirement. So far, so good: in 2010, 85% of schools were complying, according to Rebecca Johns-Wommack, the executive director of Tennessee's Office of Coordinated School Health. The office is part of the state's Department of Education.

The Task Force also makes it a priority to maintain funding for the Coordinated School Health program. This funding allows for the placement of a student health monitor in every school district in the state.

And it appears that few if any stones will be left unturned when it comes to Tennessee's schools. The Task Force's plan even includes a safety element that is directly related to its fight against childhood obesity: it is pushing for an increased fine for speeding in a school zone, with the intent to make it safer for children to walk or ride their bikes to school.

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