We’ve been hearing it for quite some time now. Cutting to the chase, our kids are too fat, according to health researchers. That stated, grants are being forwarded to Colquitt County via the University of Georgia to help address this issue.

A health care specialist will soon be hired under the Archway of Colquitt County umbrella, and the initial focus will be on childhood obesity. The Healthy Colquitt County Coalition, formed less than a year ago, also will be involved in this project.

The Archway executive committee, made up of a cross section of Colquitt County leaders, is presently choosing an executive board that will direct this new position.

Four such projects have been targeted by the University of Georgia, which is the overseer of Archway. In Colquitt County, the project will work through YMCA after-school programs and with the Healthy Colquitt County Coalition to increase children’s physical activities, healthy eating habits and family involvements.

“Broad-based community partnerships, as exemplified by UGA’s Archway Partnership project, have the potential to be more effective and more sustainable than other approaches in addressing childhood obesity,” said David Lee, UGA vice president for research.

Georgia ranks as the third worst state in the nation with over one-third of children being overweight or obese, research shows.

“Obesity translates into heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and even enhances predisposition to certain cancers,” said Lee. “This adds up to a huge financial burden on our health care system that is borne by all levels of government and ultimately the taxpayer.”

Budget issues have caused some in-school physical programs to have been cut. UGA researchers see an opportunity for after-school activities to pick up some of this slack.

“Because obesity is a complex issue, we need to work with, rather than in, the community,” said Marsha Davis, an associate professor in the department of health promotion and behavior in UGA’s College of Public Health. In addition to Davis, project researchers include Archway Partnership director Mel Garber; Emily Watson, the Archway executive director in Colquitt County; and Frances McCarty of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University.

Garber met with the Archway executive committee in Colquitt County on Wednesday to discuss this project and to lay groundwork to  pick an executive committee to manage the health care professional here.

Archway of Colquitt County chairman Roy Reeves said he expects the health  professional’s executive board to the comprised of eight to 10 community leaders to include some people who are health care providers and others who represent local industry and business.

Archway officials said advertising will begin right away to hire someone for this job. This person must have a master’s degree in public health. Ideally, they said, this person should have at least two years of community-based experience.

Information on how to apply for this position can be obtained from Emily Watson, UGA Archway Partnership, 50 Bldg. 1, Room 132 Veterans Parkway, Moultrie, GA 31788 (229-616-7455 phone, 29-616-7033 fax).

While childhood obesity is the initial focus, this person’s role will not be limited to that area, it was noted.

Archway executive committee member Bob Swadel suggested that another project in this regard might be to seek mental health facilities for Colquitt County. During the past year, the local mental health program was shut down during the state’s budget squeeze. Mental health patients who used that facility now must go to Thomasville or Pelham. It was noted that the lack of a facility here is now impacting the local emergency room at Colquitt Regional Medical Center as well as law enforcement agencies.

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