Organization taking proactive approach to fighting childhood obesity

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The childhood obesity rate in Craighead County has tripled in the past 30 years. That's according to the latest Arkansas Assessment of Childhood and Adolescent Obesity. However, a local program is fighting to bring those numbers down.

Through teaching children and their parents the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

"As far as I'm concerned, health is very important," father, Michael Layton told Region 8 News. He enrolled his 8-year-old daughter in the 16 week program, aimed at fighting childhood obesity, through the NEA Baptist Charitable Foundation.

"She was here last summer and she had such a good time that we decided to sign her back up," Layton said.

Layton said instilling a healthy lifestyle in his daughter is extremely important to him.

"I come to the gym about 4 days a week," Layton said. "Spend about an hour and a half here every day that I come so I kind of want her to have that same mentality as her dad."

Making it a family affair is exactly what program manager, Jennifer Martinez said they aim to do.

"Children learn by example and when they see their parents exercising and eating right, they want to follow in their footsteps," Martinez explained.

Not only does the program teach children and their parents the importance of eating right and exercising, but Martinez says they've also recently brought Families Inc. in on the program to hold weekly sessions on self-esteem.

"I can teach them how to exercise and how to eat right but if they don't love themselves, then they won't make that change for themselves," Martinez told Region 8 News. "So I believe that adding in that component is very important for them as well."

Martinez said combining these components as well as getting family involved is a step in the right direction to battle the childhood obesity problem in Arkansas.

"We are ranked third in the nation for childhood obesity," she said. "I mean, it is a big epidemic."

Martinez' spring program is currently at capacity with 25 children enrolled.

However, if you're interested in signing your child up for the free program at a later date, you can head to or contact Martinez at (870) 336-1760.

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