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Child Obesity Rates Improving But No Time to Celebrate

June 26, 2008

Sioux Falls, SD – The American Medical Association says the increase in childhood obesity rates has leveled off for the first time in decades, but, the AMA adds, now isn't the time to celebrate.

Mary Michaels with the American Heart Association of South Dakota says obesity numbers have dipped a bit nationally, and in South Dakota, but notes that more than a third of the state's children are still classified as either overweight or obese.

"We really need to reverse that trend. We've seen just a slight drop, which is obviously going in the right direction, but there is still so much work to be done. And we know that, for these children, the child care providers and the parents are really the primary role models. They're the ones spending the most time with these children, who can teach them these healthy habits that will help them grow into healthy adults."

Michaels believes adults need to set good examples for kids by choosing better foods and encouraging more physical activity. She says the "Healthy Lifestyles for Kids Summit" planned for Sioux Falls on Saturday morning is an opportunity for South Dakota parents and child care providers to pick up some tips to help create a better environment for children.

"We really want to give people some hands-on training, some concrete tips that they can take back that same day and put to use in their child care or in the home. We also want to help these child care providers and parents become advocates for children and let them know how they can make their voices heard in talking with elected officials at all levels."

Michaels is hopeful that parents and child care providers will get engaged in the childhood obesity issue because it's one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The one-day summit is sponsored by the American Heart Association of South Dakota and the "Growing Healthy Initiative." It will be held at the Ivy Room in Sioux Falls Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon.

More about the 2008 Healthy Lifestyles for Kids Summit can be found online at
www.healthysiouxfalls.org.

The cost for the summit is five dollars.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD