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Links making strides against obesity

The Natchez Chapter of The Links Inc., a nationally recognized service organization, designated every Monday and Tuesday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. in March to activate the exercise component of the Childhood Obesity Grant it received in February of 2012. Grant participants, parents, friends and others comprised an overall total of 270 persons who walked in the Natchez Mall in what was titled, “Striding Against Obesity.” At the end of each person’s self-paced walk, he/she was given bottled water and a bag of fruit. The activity was supervised, monitored and chaperoned by several members of the Links and their spouses, known as Connecting-Links.

In December of 2011, the National Headquarters of The Links, Inc., located in Washington, D.C., made 100 grants in the amount of $2,500.00 each available to chapters through competitive proposal writing. The Links National Headquarters received grant monies from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Morehouse College Medical School, where intensive research has been conducted on childhood obesity over the last several years. Basing the rationale of the Natchez Chapter’s proposal on Mississippi having been cited as having the greatest number of obese persons in the nation (U.S. Bureau of The Census and The Centers for Disease Control — 2009), Dr. Fredericka Todd, retired educator developed a detailed proposal consisting of goals, objectives and lesson designed to change and/or improve the diet of 30 children (subjects) 8-12 years of age. The proposal consisted of seven sessions which began with a pre-test, followed by six lessons and ended with a post-test. The sessions were instructional in nature and facilitated by Links and/or Connecting-Links who were retired master teachers, nutritionists, registered nurses, home economists, media specialists and medical doctors. Workbooks and other teaching/learning materials were developed and used, which were directly related to the objectives of the program presented in the grant proposal.

As stated in the grant proposal, the population (also known as subjects and/or participants), were identified by members of the links who lived in Natchez. Over 60 letters were mailed to parents – yielding 32 “yes” responses. Parents and children met in March of 2012 at Prince Street Day Care Center for an overview of the program and expected outcomes. Each parent gave signed permission for his/her child to participate in the project. During the same session, the weight, height and body mass index of each participant were measured by Dr. Evelyn Stiner, nurse practitioner, and Jennifer Williams, R.N., who served as volunteers intermittently in March, April and May of 2012. According to Fredericka Todd, not any of the participants were really obese (50 to 100 pounds overweight) causing the program to become proactive or preventive in focus. Todd said that participants will be able to incorporate what they have learned into their lives now and later to the lives of their children when they become parents.

All seven sessions were conducted at Prince Street Day Care Center with Barbara Crenshaw, center director, and Demetria Reed, retired principal, serving as coordinators. Facilitators for the session were Dr. Jo Ann Smith of Port Gibson, Betty Johnson, R.N. of Vicksburg, Dr. Alice Gill, and Countess Thompson of Brookhaven, Jenette Wilson, Jacquelyn Wright, Fredericka Todd and Thelma Angelethy (now deceased) and yours truly, Dr. Bernadette Sherman, of Natchez.

The culminating event for the nutritional phase of the grant was a Children’s Banquet at Zion Chapel African Methodist Church on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, with about 60 persons attending. Dr. Jo Ann Smith served as mistress of ceremonies for the program, and Demetria Reed, Betty Johnson and Fredericka Todd reviewed and reinforced the teachings of the My Plate Model in brief presentations. Several grant participants shared their talents in poetry and singing as their parents, siblings and family proudly looked on. Alphonse Reed, M.D., ended the program with comments on health and wellness. Everyone moved downstairs to the cafeteria, where a delicious and nutritious kid-friendly meal was planned and served, under the direction of Jacquelyn Wright. Barbara Crenshaw presented each child with a T-shirt and a certificate of participation in the Can You Imagine Me? Project.


Bernadette Sherman, M.D., practices Obstetrics & Gynecology in Natchez.