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Links focused on health of children

Members of the Natchez Chapter of the Links Incorporated were among the Mississippi Chapters of The Links Incorporated who were recognized for their outstanding community service and support of legislation addressing childhood obesity and the elimination of health disparities at the Mississippi State Capitol for “Links Day at the Capitol” Tuesday, Feb. 22.

According to a major study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi is the fattest state in the United States. Mississippi has claimed the title of fattest state in the nation for the fifth consecutive year. The fattest kids in the nation live in the state of Mississippi where 44.5 percent of young people qualify as overweight.

The Mississippi Chapters of The Links continue to emphasize learning healthy lifestyles and eating healthy foods. We are committed to increasing awareness and heightening understanding about the multidimensional issues that contribute to obesity among children. As a parent, you should be aware of the following facts.

The first factor that can contribute to overweight children is their eating habits. Kids that eat a lot of junk foods and snacks are more likely to develop weight problems than those that eat well-balanced meals every day. Your children need to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day (60 minutes is strongly recommended), yet many do not exercise at all.

Exercise is as important as a good diet in children. Kids with overweight parents are more likely to become obese partly due to biological factors such as metabolism. Overweight parents should encourage healthy eating and exercise. Poor parental role modeling plays a much larger role in a child becoming overweight than actual genetics do.

In addition to the above, one of the more overlooked contributing factors to childhood obesity is sleep. Children that get enough sleep at night are less likely to develop weight problems than those that never get an adequate amount of sleep at night.

Health consequences for obese children may include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, fatty liver, sleep apnea, bone complications, accelerated growth and psychological problems.

Understanding the causes of childhood obesity can provide the opportunity to focus resources, interventions and research in directions that would be most beneficial in addressing the problem.

The Southern Area of the Links Incorporated and its 3,000-plus members gathered in their respective state’s capital cities during the 2011 sessions to let their legislative representatives know that they wanted the issue of childhood obesity to become a priority throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.

We thank our legislators for taking time to hear our concerns, answer our questions and offer suggestions in our group sessions.

We thank our local Rep. Robert L. Johnson III for his patience, support and attentiveness to the Natchez Chapter during our recent visit to the Mississippi State Capitol.

Barbara Crenshaw is the president of the Natchez Chapter of The Links Incorporated.