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Contact: Christine Payton AUG. 15, 2009
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
 
PICARD CENTER AMONG AGENCIES TO LAUNCH INITIATIVE ON CHILDHOOD OBESITY
 
More than one-third of Louisiana’s children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese, according to recent findings. That places our state seventh in the nation in the proportion of overweight or obese children. But a recent act (Act 256) passed in the 2009 regular legislative session seeks to deal with this problem.

Act 256 provides for expansion of the physical fitness assessments currently being implemented in schools throughout 12 pilot parishes, with the eventual goal of statewide implementation.

“ In doing our part to fulfill the objectives of this law, the Department of Education is determined to collaborate with other agencies to positively impact the problem of childhood obesity in Louisiana,” said State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek. “We know that the overall well-being of our students plays a role in their ability to succeed in school, and so we want to work to support these kinds of efforts.”

Act 256, authored by Senators Cheryl Gray-Evans and Yvonne Dorsey, was signed into law by Governor Jindal on July 1, 2009. The Act coordinates key entities on a pilot project providing for physical fitness assessments in schools and for formulating a plan for statewide implementation of these assessments. Among the agencies participating in this pilot project are the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the Louisiana Department of Education, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the Louisiana Council on Obesity Prevention and Management.

“ I strongly support the bill because information collected under this legislation about childhood obesity can help us teach Louisiana’s children how to live longer, healthier lives,” remarked Senator Dorsey.

The assessments are designed to provide personalized feedback and positive reinforcement to influence overall health and wellness, academics, and behavior, and it will be a source of communication between teachers, parents, students and the community. Based on factors essential to overall health and function, the assessment measures aerobic capacity, body mass composition and muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility.

“ A further goal of the statewide expansion provided for in Act 256 is to implement the fitness assessments in school systems with high levels of poverty,” said Dr. Billy R. Stokes, Executive Director of the Picard Center. “Child obesity clearly is a statewide problem and will require a statewide fix.”

The parishes to be assessed in the Act 256 pilot project are:

• Desoto;
• Lafayette;
• Lincoln;
• The Monroe City School System;
• Morehouse;
• Natchitoches;
• Ouachita;
• The Recovery School District;
• Sabine;
• St. Martin;
• St. Mary; and
• West Feliciana.

“ Research clearly indicates that participation in regular physical activity can reduce the health risks associated with obesity,” said Pamela Romero, coordinator for the Louisiana Council on Obesity Prevention and Management. “This fitness testing will establish a statewide standard that will provide baseline measures and subsequent measurement to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and promote fitness for health, rather than just on performance, among all youth.”

Working in concert with the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Picard Center will collect fitness data and report back information relative to the physical fitness of students by race, age and gender.

All of the agencies will then collaborate with the Obesity Council and other universities to identify best practices for overall health of students and effective interventions to address identified needs of underweight children, overweight children and children identified at high risk for chronic health problems.

Senator Gray Evans noted, “Childhood obesity is an epidemic in Louisiana and can lead to long-term ailments, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. The fitness assessments are tools that can be used to in this fight, and the data collected will let us know what programs are working and should be implemented across the state. Childhood obesity creates a financial burden on the state and emotional burdens on Louisiana families. This is a step in the right direction to make a difference.”

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Document last revised Monday, August 31, 2009 7:43 AM

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