Obesity is a serious public health concern in the United States as rates of obesity have reached epidemic proportions. At least 27% of adults are considered obese with Mississippi leading in adult obesity at 37%. Unfortunately the high obesity rates are not limited to adults, with at least 16% of children ages 10 to 17 in 2007 being classified as obese. Mississippi's childhood obesity rate was almost 22%, the highest in the country. Obesity rates in Mississippi's very young children ages 2 to 5 years are also staggering at 15%. Most child experts believe that positive health habits can be formed at an early age by introducing concepts of healthy eating and encouraging physical activity. However because Mississippi has one of the highest poverty rates, there may be circumstances that make it difficult for families to achieve optimal health. Health professionals are at odds of what information should be provided to families not knowing the full scope of the families'environment, social and cultural dynamics. Without knowing this key piece of information it becomes challenging to provide appropriate health plans that integrate the families'current lifestyle with new solutions that are achievable to improve health outcomes. The purpose of this project is to form partnerships between researchers from various disciplines (including the social sciences, nutrition, human sciences, and communications), a health care professional, staff at an interactive children's health education center, as well as input from students, parents, teachers, and community members to address these factors, promote healthy foods and lifestyles, and raise awareness of research on obesity-related topics. Building upon the expertise of project partners, the proposed research will use a variety of creative techniques to educate pre-K and K students, their parents, teachers and community members about topics related to obesity. These techniques range from age-appropriate dynamic and innovative, hands-on exhibits and field trip programs offered at a children's health education center to community awareness/media activities such as public service announcement scripts, social media tools, and print media. The information generated from the project will provide information to the public that are reflective of their reality and provide real solutions to improve health.
Obesity is a serious public health concern as rates for childhood and adult obesity have reached epidemic proportions. This project creates partnerships between university researchers, a medical professional, and staff at an interactive health education center and uses informal science education and media activities to promote healthy lifestyles for children, parents, teachers, and community members.