As childhood obesity increases, Missourians work to prevent the epidemic
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As childhood obesity increases, Missourians work to prevent the epidemic

Date: March 23, 2011
By: Megan McGinnis
State Capitol Bureau

As Missouri lawmakers enter the final weeks of the legislative session, a number of issues have been filed to address a concern raised by health experts across the country about rising obesity rates among children. 
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Wrap: In the past 30 years childhood obesity rates have tripled.

St. Louis area mom Dori Lingle decided to seek help for her overweight daughter after a trip to the pediatrician.

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Description: Her pediatrician had been pretty much monitoring her weight and her cholesterol primarily and the trend was going up.
According to the CDC, Lingle's daughter was one of 12.5 million American children considered overweight or obese.

After surfing the Internet, Lingle found Camp Jump Start. 

Camp Jump Start is a weight loss camp for children in Imperial, Missouri.  It boasts campers from all over the world.

Jean Huelsing is the director of Camp Jump Start.  She says her camp gives kids the tools to live a healthy lifestyle.

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Description: They are able to do some hands on with cooking. We do grocery store shopping so they get the idea of how to shop correctly. They learn how to label read.

Huelsing says the camp is a fun way for kids to lose weight.

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Description: Yeah it is fun, and is no way a boot camp.
She also says every child who has come to the camp has lost weight.

Linlge's daughter found success after two summers at Camp Jump Start.

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Description: She lost over 50 pounds, but that was over about a year and a half.

Lingle says the camp's lessons last long after the camp fires go out.

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Description: It's long lasting in its ability to provide support.
After they leave the camp, campers receive follow up phone calls.  They also have access to a nutritionist afterward.
Huelsing says she believes stress is a major factor in childhood obesity.
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Description: The world's become too busy, and we have to go back to the basics of what are our priorities. I know the greatest gift any parent has ever given is their child, yet the things they need the most we are neglecting.
Lingle says she thinks genetics are one thing that play a role in obesity.
She wanted her daughter to lose weight for health purposes, her family has a history of high cholesterol and heart disease.
Consequences of childhood obesity include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma.
Her daughter has maintained her weight loss, and now hopes to become a counselor at Camp Jump Start.

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Description: She's managed to keep it up and is quite a happy person.

Huelsing says when she asks children why they eat unhealthy many blame it on the food provided by their school.


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Description: They will laugh at me and say, well Jean have you seen what they give me in school.

Laina Fullum is the nutrition director for Columbia Public Schools.  Fullum and her staff have numerous programs in place to encourage kids to eat healthy.

The district currently employs two nutritionists.  Teachers can invite them in to their classrooms to give a presentation on healthy eating habits.  Fullum says the presentations appeal to any age.

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Description: We have specific curriculum that we supply to children, it is hands on, it is very age appropriate.

Fullum says every cafeteria offers a salad bar, fresh fruits, and veggies.  The Columbia School District analyzes all the meals before they are served to students.

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Description: We pre-analyze our menus actually to make sure that we are meeting at least one third of the RDA for lunch and one fourth of the RDA for breakfast. So we know prior to service whether we are hitting the nutritional value.

One new nutrition program is Tasty Tuesday.  Fullum says the program allows students to sample new healthy menu items without committing their entire tray to the item. 

Columbia Schools also offer students various opportunities to get active.

Patty Cornell is the K through 5 physical education coordinator for the school district.  She says the schools are trying to get parents involved in their children's health.

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Description: Several of the school's have fitness PTA groups that do monthly parent student activity nights.

Some schools have fitness clubs.  Grant elementary has a running club, and Paxton Keeley has a mileage club.

Cornell says she encourages parents to be educators.  Parents are encouraged to help their children fill out exercise logs, supplied by the school. 

Fullum says parent outreach is still difficult.


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Description: When you tell a parent their child is morbidly obese, you know that's a sticky wicket. That is a hard thing for a parent to hear from someone.

Cornell says she believes the size and reach of the Columbia School District allows them to implement so many healthy lifestyle initiatives.

From the state Capitol, I'm Megan McGinnis.