Leaders seek solution to state’s rising obesity rate

The ‘Taking Charge for a Healthy Mississippi’ Summit took place in the capital city yesterday. 

Hosted by The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and Families First for Mississippi, the summit was attended by over 200 health professionals and community leaders as they attempt to curb the rise of Mississippi’s obesity rate. 

The number of obese adults in the state has risen nearly 60 percent in 15 years, from 23.7 percent in 2000 to 37.3 percent in 2016. According to the MSDH, if nothing is done to stop the growth, the obesity rate could reach 66.7 percent by 2030.

“There is absolutely no time to waste,” said MSDH State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “Excess weight and limited physical activity are robbing Mississippi residents of opportunities for prosperity and good health,” he said.

In 2015, 40 percent of school-aged children and youth were overweight or obese. Just like adults in the state, those children are at increased risk for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.

Summit participants were tasked with identifying the best practices, opportunities and challenges faced while implementing initiatives designed to lower obesity rates across all age groups in Mississippi. The main priority of the event was to discuss obesity prevention and ways that community-based organizations, traditional health care systems and government agencies can collaborate to better serve their communities.

“We are looking for evidence-based strategies to reduce obesity in the state. All options are on the table. We discussed ideas that will work and will have measurable results,” said Dr. Dobbs. “We are working for real change.”

The summit was part of Governor Phil Bryant’s obesity initiative, and Dr. Nancy New, Executive Director of Mississippi Families First, said that the initiative will help lead to a healthier Mississippi. 

“Throughout Mississippi, we are aware that there are challenges with eating healthy which may lead to obesity and other health disparities. The Governor’s Obesity Initiative will afford great opportunities for communities to influence and impact health and nutrition across generations,” said Nancy New, Ph.D., Executive Director of Mississippi Families First.

A follow-up summit will be held in late summer or early fall.