Deal launches landmark initiative to improve childhood fitness

Published 5:08 am Friday, May 25, 2012

Special to The Post-Searchlight

On May 23, Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Department of Public Health launched Georgia SHAPE, a statewide program merging governmental, philanthropic and academic and business communities to address childhood obesity.

“This affects all of us,” Deal said. “We must work together to improve the health of children in our state. Some suggest that we’re raising the first generation of American kids to have shorter life expectancy then their parents because of problems related to obesity. We can and will do better to promote healthy lifestyles.”

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Flanked by First Lady Sandra Deal; Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health; and representatives from the Atlanta Falcons; the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; the Atlanta Braves; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Coca-Cola and other important leaders, Deal challenged Georgians to tackle the state’s childhood obesity epidemic head on.

The evidence is clear that childhood obesity is a growing problem in the United States and an epidemic in Georgia — the state has the second worst rate for children ages 10-17. Nearly 40 percent of the children in our state are considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has serious immediate and long-term effects not only on health and well-being, but on the academic achievement of our children and the economy of our state.

Fitzgerald fully supports the governor’s initiative.

“Georgia SHAPE is more than fitness and exercise; it’s about bringing all of Georgia together to reverse the numbers. This really is a call to action by the governor,” Fitzgerald said.

The launch of Georgia SHAPE included the unveiling of a digital portal, one of many strategies aimed at addressing childhood obesity. One of the most exciting aspects of is the fitness directory, where visitors can enter their ZIP codes and the number of miles they are willing to travel. Based on the information provided, a list of area fitness programs will populate, along with details about each.

Additional strategies to combat childhood obesity are planned and include promoting breastfeeding, increasing physical activity and providing better nutritional options for students.

Every effort will be made to support regulations that provide 30 minutes of daily physical activity for every student at school. Child care programs that implement specific wellness policies and other related training will earn the Governor’s Award, which designates them as a Georgia SHAPE compliant facility. Developing a mini-grant program to provide resources for schools to employ innovative/evidence-based nutrition programs is also a priority.