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Healthy Jacksonville Coalition Fighting the Problem of Childhood Obesity

5:46 PM, Feb 16, 2011   |    comments
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  • Thirty Per Cent of Jacksonville Kids Obese or Overweight
  • Laureen Husband, Healthy Jacksonville Director, Duval County Health Dept.
  • Dennis Triche, father concerned about daughter's weight gain

JACKSONVILLE, Fla - Thirty percent of Jacksonville's children are obese or overweight - above the state average and about 3 percent more than four years ago, according to the Duval County Health Department.

"It's not getting better right now," said Laureen Husband, director of Healthy Jacksonville at the Health Department.

The Healthy Jacksonville Coalition to Prevent Childhood Obesity  is a coalition of 250 area partners, agencies and groups, and school systems who try to reach the community and suggest solutions.

The problem is worse in the urban core and northwest Jacksonville, both low-income neighborhoods, said Husband.

"Often times because we are stressed, we choose the easy option, and choose fast food. We are giving (children) calories, not good nutrition," said Husband.

There are only 10 big-name stores in an area spanning five zip codes on the Northside and Westside. That does not help the problem, and neither does many fast food places there that residents frequent.

Because of the small number of grocery stores there, residents have to shop at a number of convenience stores in the area so they do not have access to fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.

Dennis Triche has a 9-year old daughter who gained a lot of weight recently. He is concerned and wants to see her lose it.

"I try to get her mother to put her on a diet, and have her eat right," said Triche. "And do it with her because they both are obese, but she does not want to do it...."

Working to change policies is one answer. Safer streets for pedestrians and bicyclists would be one way to increase exercise.

The coalition is pushing to get more grocery stores where they are needed and community gardens where residents can grow fresh vegetables. The partners urge caregivers to give more play time to the children they care for.

It also works closely with schools to get healthier meals in the cafeterias. Lately, Duval schools have less carbonated beverages, and  more diet drinks and water in school vending machines.

The coalition works communitywide to educate parents to do the right thing. "Don't rely on the schools to do all the changing, and developing for our children, it's our responsibility as parents," said Husband.

Childhood obesity leads to lifelong health problems, higher medical costs and a shorter life expectancy.

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