Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco announced today that Louisiana has been selected as one of only 15 states to receive a national grant to be used for childhood obesity prevention efforts in schools.  The state is being awarded $110,000 as part of the National Governor’s Association’s Healthy Kids, Healthy America award to go toward improving obesity rates among the state’s youth. 

The project is being spearheaded by the Louisiana Council on Obesity Prevention & Management (Louisiana Obesity Council), and was conceived jointly between the Department of Health and the Department of Education. 

Gov. Blanco applauded the efforts of the Louisiana Obesity Council, and stressed the importance of early obesity prevention efforts.

“Healthy children are happier, perform better in school, and are far more likely to grow into healthy adults,” she said.  “Teaching our children the value of healthy living will give them the tools to realize their full potential and to become more productive citizens of our State.  By lowering obesity rates in our children, we will improve the health of Louisiana for years to come.”

“Childhood obesity has a strong link to the development of future heart disease and diabetes – leading killers of American adults,” said Dr. Caroline Norman of the American Heart Association.  “Historically, obese children often become obese adults. Aggressive intervention and treatment is crucial at an early stage to reverse poor health and environmental habits that lead to this condition and to instill and promote a culture of health and wellness that will last a lifetime. The recent NGA grant received by Gov. Blanco on behalf of Louisiana will help jumpstart our state's efforts to advance healthy lifestyles in the treasure we cherish most in our state—our children."

“Our goal is to assist Louisiana school districts in successfully implementing their local Wellness Policies,” said Pam Romero, Coordinator of the Louisiana Obesity Council.  “Each of the policies is required to include plans for nutrition and physical education programs, which would create an environment that supports opportunities for students to make healthy choices and remain physically active.”

Romero added that these new funds will improve implementation efforts by providing the means to access information sharing tools, experts in the field, advance monitoring capabilities and many other useful materials.

“Implementation has been hindered in the past by a gradual shift in the education system that places more emphasis on academics and less on nutrition and physical education,” said Romero.  “The fact is numerous studies show that children who get plenty of exercise perform better academically and have better classroom behaviors.  So our goal is to renew that importance of health education.”

The Wellness Policy also seeks to establish the following in all schools:

  • School districts must set goals for nutrition education, physical activity, campus food provision and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness,
  • Develop a plan for measuring implementation of the policy, and
  • Involve parents, students, the school board, school administrators and the public in the development of local school wellness policies.

Louisiana has the 9th highest rate of overweight youths (ages 10-17) in the nation at 17.2 percent, according to a report released last month by Trust for America’s Health.  The report also noted that eight of the ten states with the highest rates of overweight children were found to be in the South.  For more, click here.

To learn more about the Louisiana Obesity Council, visit their web site by clicking here.