What should be done when your state leads the nation in rates of childhood obesity? That was the question various attendants sought to answer at "Childhood Obesity in Louisiana," a conference sponsored by the Environment and Health Council of Louisiana and the Louisiana Council on Obesity Prevention and Management.

The conference took place Tuesday, March 18 from 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. at the Lindy C. Boggs International Conference Center. Members of more than 20 health, educational and public policy organizations attended and offered their suggestions as to how the state can curb childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity often leads to adult obesity, which is a risk factor for several major health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, high cholesterol and heart attacks. If the state can lower rates of obesity, it also can lower incidences of these diseases.

"Obesity is a serious problem, but it also is a preventable and treatable one," said Department of Health Secretary David W. Hood. "If we take steps to ensure our children begin eating properly and exercising regularly in childhood, we have taken steps to help them prevent numerous other diseases as they age."

Some options conference attendants explored included revamping physical education classes in the state school systems to not only make the classes more fun, but to encourage children to make physical activity part of their daily routine. Other topics explored included linking medical and education groups, fast-food companies on campuses and the different roles parents, educators and physicians play in this problem.

Attendants also discussed the proposed formation of Louisiana Network for Academic Success through Health (LaNASH), a group made up of different health and educational organizations, and whether it could succeed in fighting childhood obesity.

Speakers at the conference ranged from state officials to members of different school boards to doctors and health experts. Between sessions, media were invited to attend a press conference at which Hood, State Representative Jane Smith and Donna Nola-Ganey, assistant superintendent for the Office of School and Community Support, addressed the issue of childhood obesity.

For more information about childhood obesity, please contact Virginia Moore, Louisiana Council on Obesity Prevention and Management coordinator, at (225) 769-9357.