JACKSON, Miss – Mississippi’s obesity rate in high school students (grades 9-12) has dropped by 12.7%, knocking the state’s teens out of the number one spot down to number five in obesity nationwide. Mississippi’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey found the rate of obesity among Mississippi high school students is now at 16.5%. The national average for obesity among high school students is 13%.
“We are very encouraged to see this decline in obesity rates among our high school students. It’s the first time in ten years we have seen any decline in Mississippi’s adolescent obesity rate,” said State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier. “Mississippi’s obesity issue continues to be a huge public health concern but my hope is that we continue to see a decline in years to come.”
Health officials say the decline can’t be contributed to any one factor but that a variety of ongoing statewide programs to combat obesity are starting to pay off.
“Mississippi became a leader in school health with the passage of the Healthy Students Act in 2007. Our schools have incorporated more fruits, vegetables, and whole grain items into menus,” said Scott Clements, director of Child Nutrition and Healthy Schools at the Mississippi Department of Education. “At the same time, they are reducing fat by replacing fryers with new combination oven-steamers and moving to low-fat milk. Coupled with the increase in physical activity, it seems these efforts are contributing to improved student health.”
Educators and health officials agree healthier children miss school less often, focus better in the classroom and develop healthy habits that follow them through life.
The state’s battle against obesity is also making some headway among elementary students. A recent report released by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy shows a significant drop of 13% (from 43.0% in 2005 to 37.3% in 2011) in overweight and obesity combined among all Mississippi elementary school students.
For more information contact the Office of Communications, Mississippi State Department of Health, 601-576-7667 or www.msdh.state.ms.us.