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The fight against obesity
GSU, health department form coalition to raise awareness in Bulloch
Obesity photo TONED
Dr. Fred Whitt, Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences at Georgia Southern University, speaks Wednesday morning about the Bulloch County CHILD Coalition. - photo by JAMES HEALY/staff
    A world of fast food and slowed activity has led the nation to become obese — and Bulloch County hasn’t been spared from the  trend. But the Georgia Southern University College of Health and Human Sciences hopes to team with the Bulloch County Health Department — and other community leaders — to combat the problem through education.
    Local leaders from the health care community, Bulloch County Board of Education, Statesboro City Council, Bulloch County Commission and other entities filled the room at GSU’s Nessmith-Lane Building Wednesday for the Bulloch County CHILD Coalition community breakfast, which also served as an introductory meeting to pitch the idea of the coalition to members of the community.
    CHILD stands for “Children’s Health Improvement and Lifestyle Development” coalition, said Dr. Fred Whitt, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, as he welcomed the crowd.
    The effort is funded by the Division of Public Health through the Center for Disease Control (CDC), said Dr. Rosemarie Parks, medical director for the Southeast Health District, who gave a greeting during the breakfast.
    Whitt introduced others and gave a brief overview of the reason for the breakfast.
    The coalition, which will be made up from a wide spectrum of community members, “ meets a real health need in our community,” he said.
    Dr. Barry Joyner, chairman of the GSU Department of Health and Kinesiology, gave a video presentation that showed photos of overweight children and adults, paired with facts about obesity and how it affects health.
    “It’s a pretty eye-opening video” Whitt said after the video ended.
    Obesity is when a person has a body mass index (BMI) of over 30, which means, for a person standing 5’4”, being 30 pounds overweight, Joyner said,
    He spoke about the obesity rate steadily increasing nationwide, with Georgia having 31.6 percent of its population obese. Bulloch County ranks 123rd out of 159 counties, with 44.2 percent of Bulloch County youth between 10 and 13 years being “overweight or at risk.”
    Joyner explained how being overweight is due to an “energy imbalance ... people taking in more than they are expending.”
    Education is the key to preventing and reversing this trend, said Donna Whitt, coordinator of  the Bulloch County CHILD Coalition.
    “We need to have a lot of education about healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
    Consequences of childhood obesity include low self esteem, depression, being victim to social discrimination and bullying, hypertension, diabetes, and leading to asthma, cancer and heart disease, she said.
    Being overweight is “the only socially acceptable form of discrimination,” she said.
    The coalition will help Bulloch County by giving “ a road map to change the course we’re on,” she said. “There’s  no magic bullet” that will end obesity. “It takes a lifestyle change, a change in thought processes.”
    Educating children and families about healthier choices is important for the community, she said.
    Ms. Whitt encouraged everyone to become involved.
    “Each of you is an integral piece of this puzzle,” she said. “We need participation from all aspects  churches, parks and recreation, government, university, school, businesses, community organizations, health department and health care.”
    Kathy Szotkiewicz, Bulloch County school nutrition director, said the coalition is a great idea.
    Her desire is to form a wellness committee in each school to “monitor wellness policy we came up with three years ago,” she said. The coalition’s mission will dovetail into those efforts, she said. Continuation of monitoring what foods are offered at school through meals and special events and rewards is important and working with the coalition will support school efforts.’
    Also, Szotkiewicz said she is working with a college student interested in helping her with a program that will have school principals “signing up to be a nationally recognized healthy school,” and said she would like  to see Wednesday’s presentation given to the entire Bulloch County BOE at a future meeting.
    For more information about the Bulloch County CHILD Coalition call (912) 682-1060, or send e-mail to
    Internet users can access Web site for additional information.
    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414. 
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