Georgia improves in obesity rankings

The state of Georgia received encouraging news this week in the ongoing battle against childhood obesity.

A new report by the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health ranks Georgia 17th nationally, up from having the second-most obese child population in the nation six years ago. The data was gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Georgia is also third in the nation for the prevalence of overweight children and 10th nationally when combining obese and overweight children.

The new data represents a significant change from 2007 when the state ranked second nationally in childhood obesity, 17th in overweight children and third when combining both factors, according to the Georgia Department of Health.

The report represents a 5 percent drop in obese children in Georgia.

"I'm encouraged at the numbers," said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, who oversees Gov. Nathan Deal's anti-childhood obesity campaign, Georgia SHAPE. "We must stay the course in Georgia to improve the lives of our state's young people."

Georgia SHAPE is an acronym, which stands for the Georgia Student Health and Physical Education Act, passed in 2009, which requires each local school district to conduct an annual fitness assessment for all students from first grade through high school.

The report was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, and provides an analysis of physical, emotional and behavioral child health indicators in combination with information on family context and neighborhood environment.

"Georgia SHAPE focuses on teaching healthy habits to our children, lessons that will serve them for a lifetime," Deal said in a news release. "We're delivering real solutions to the obesity epidemic by promoting nutritious eating and physical activity."

The news release said Georgia SHAPE has become the nation's largest network of partners, government agencies and professional athletic teams.