South Carolina launches first-ever statewide obesity action plan

South Carolina is the tenth most obese state in the nation.
South Carolina is the tenth most obese state in the nation.

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina is the tenth most obese state in the nation, and believe it or not, this is actually an improvement from seventh, but state leaders aren't satisfied.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Department of Agriculture, and the South Carolina Obesity Council, together, have come up with short and long-term strategies to help fight obesity in South Carolina, once and for all. It's a brand new program that will have the state slimming down, for good.

State leaders are unveiling the first-ever statewide obesity action plan Wednesday. It's a plan of action in four major categories: communities, worksites, health care and schools. The state wants to get into the places we live, work, and play, to address the obesity risk factors.

Each objective in the plan has a target date and anticipated outcome. It also maps out how the organizations intend to measure the state's progress in achieving each milestone.

This plan will be a tool we can all use with the website SCaledown.org, a source for everyone from nurses, parents, teachers, to go to learn how to help their community struggling with the weight.

DHEC says this is an evolving plan with goal dates and goal numbers. For example, the action plan includes improving access to affordable, healthy produce by increasing the number of local farmers markets that accept SNAP/EBT and WIC vouchers.  Another example is increasing provider referrals to obesity counseling services for South Carolina patients.

The DHEC Director Catherine Templeton told WMBF News it has more than 800 organizations involved in this movement statewide, and she expects that number to grow.

Obesity doesn't just weigh you or your family down, but it's also financially dragging down the state of South Carolina.

"Obesity is one of the most critical health problems facing South Carolina today, contributing to diseases that kill the most people in our state, and costing an estimated $8.5 billion per year," Templeton said.

In this obesity action plan, schools and childcare is a main focus. It's about addressing this issue head on before it grows with age. Leaders with DHEC say school is an ideal location to improve eating habits, increase physical activity, and educate kids about their overall health.

The obesity action plan includes increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in our schools. The plan also calls for increasing gym time, which local physical education teachers say we need, especially at the elementary level, where some kids only exercise once a week.

According to the latest National Survey of Children's Health, South Carolina has the second-highest obesity rate for kids ages 10-17, an age that is just too young.

"It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, so to get the kids active when they're young, they're much more likely to be active when they're an adult," said Joe Goodwin, Physical Education and Health Teacher at Ocean Bay Middle School. "If they become obese as a teenager, its gonna be a challenge for them, even more of a challenge as an adult so its so important to get that early."

He recommends trying out many activities with your kids until they find one of interest, such as sports they can carry into adulthood, like volleyball and tennis.  In our area, we have plenty of opportunities at our recreation centers to make it happen.

Remember, when teaching your kids about health, positive reinforcement is key. Your child's school has resources to help you make sure you're leading them down the road of good health.

According to a press release from DHEC, The lunch will be held on Wednesday, September 24, 2014, at 11:30 a.m. in the Phillips Market Center at the State Farmers Market. The following individuals will be in attendance: Catherine Templeton, DHEC Director, Hugh Weathers, Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and members of the South Carolina Obesity Council.

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