September 21, 2006 -- Posted at 2:30 p.m. CDT
JONESBORO -- Obesity is a problem plaguing America's youth. If you're a parent with school aged children, your child has probably come home with something called a body mass index report or BMI.
The numbers are alarming.
Region 8 school districts including Amorel, Batesville, Beebe, Black Rock, Brookland, Calico Rock, Concord, Earle, Forrest City, Greene County Tech, Heber Springs, Hillcrest, Izard County Consolidated, Mammoth Springs, Marion, Maynard, Melbourne, Nettleton, Riverview, Searcy, Southside School District, Westside and Valley View all have percentages of 30% or above of students overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
Schools including Augusta, Bald Knob, BIC, Bay, Blytheville, Cave City, Cedar Ridge, Corning, Cross County, East Poinsett County, Gosnell, Harrisburg, Highland, Hoxie, Jackson County, McCroy, Newport, Osceola, Paragould, Piggott, Pocahontas, Rector, Salem, Sloan-Hendrix, Southern Mississippi County, Trumann, Turrell, Walnut Ridge, West Memphis, White County Central, Wynne, and Jonesboro have 40% or above.
Schools with 50% of students overweight or at risk include: Imboden Charter School District, Marked Tree, and the Palestine-Wheatley school district.
There are simple things parents can do to stop excessive weight gain before it becomes a health hazard.
Newly released statistics by Arkansas Health Officials say thousands of Arkansas school aged children are overweight, or at the very least, in danger of becoming overweight and some experts say it's happening at an even earlier age.
"They are at risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and all of the complications that go along with diabetes," said Marlene Brengard, coordinator for the Diabetes Management Center for St. Bernards.
Many children are now being sent home from school with body mass index reports.
The BMI is a calculation and screening tool that uses a child's height and weight to estimate how much fat he or she has.
If a child weighs more than 95% of other kids comparable to their height, weight and age, they would be considered at risk of being overweight, but it's recommended they be screened further to determine if there is excessive body fat.
"There seems to be some indication that genetics causes or helps attribute to abnormal weight gain, but it's also environmental," said Brengard.
"I was sluggish, I didn't have a lot of self confidence or really anything," said 13-year-old Justin Beck.
Beck used to weigh 146 pounds and did receive BMI reports from his school.
"When you have a child that has a problem with weight you already sort of have that in the back of your mind, but when you see it on paper, it does concern you a lot more as a parent," said Justin's mom, Lisa Beck.
It was ongoing health problems that prompted both Justin and his mom to re-evaluate their diets. Both agree it's made a world of difference.
"I'm motivated, I have confidence and I just feel a lot better than I did when I was 25 pounds heavier," said Justin Beck.
"When I am out with him and we're walking, I don't have a phone, I don't have a TV and it gives us time to talk about whatever, aside from just getting our exercise," said Lisa Beck.
It's not exercise alone that can lead you down a healthier path. Other tips include:
- Keeping fresh fruits and vegetables in the house -- they are healthy alternatives to cookies and candy for kids to snack on.
- Consume more sugar free drinks -- this includes cutting back on fresh fruit juice
- Be aware of portion and serving sizes
- Involve the whole family.
"You can't make every change all at once. You need to set a goal and make one change at a time," said Brengard.
It's those simple changes made today that lead to a healthy tomorrow.
St. Bernards offers a diabetes management program along with "Fit Quest for Kidz and Fit Quest for Teenz." Both programs teach kids how to make healthy food choices.