Georgia Departments Collaborate to Increase Health

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

In 2007, nearly a million children in the state of Georgia were obese.

Six years later, along with a national trend, that number is down by more than 50,000 children. However, experts say, the public health crisis continues.

The Georgia Departments of Public Health and Education will collaborate this fall for their "Power Up For 30" initiative, a voluntary program that encourages every elementary school in Georgia to include additional 30-minutes of physical activity each day.

This would be in addition to state-mandated physical education classes.

The initiative expands upon the best practices from schools across the state, highlighting success stories such as Sope Creek Elementary School in Marietta.

For the past three years, the elementary school of nearly 1,200 students has carved out 30 more minutes each day for physical exercise without additional budget costs.

Sope Creek teachers are encouraged to take "brain breaks" throughout the day to get students moving.

Several studies show direct links between increased physical activity and improvements in children's math, reading and spelling scores.

"I think kids these days are so focused on technology and they sit for long periods of time and they're not used to getting up and moving. So the more that I make them get up and move, the more that they are going to think about that when they're at home,” said Sope Creek Elementary School First-Grade Teacher Sammy Jo Hogan.

Principal Martha Whalen reports a 3 percent increase in children's test scores since the program began.

"Not only does it benefit the obesity problem, it also benefits how they learn, their memory, their behavior. And we have seen their test scores improve over the last three years," Whalen said.

"I like that it's good exercise and you get to get healthy," said first grader Rebecca Stifel.

Despite improving numbers in the state's childhood obesity rates, last year, only 16 percent of Georgia's children passed the state's 5-part Fitnessgram test through the public school system.

About 43 percent of children were measured at an unhealthy weight, while 20 percent of students couldn't pass any component of the test.

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