$1.5 Million Grant Awarded To Teach Youth About Proper Nutrition Exercise

Jan Hicks, Coolman, Denise, Murphy, Ellen P., Roy, Heli J.  |  10/24/2006 1:52:12 AM

News Release Distributed 12/04/03

The LSU AgCenter is among the recipients of a $1.57 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that will fund a five-year research and educational program on obesity to benefit children living in the Delta Region of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

The grant to universities and state agencies in the three states was announced Wednesday in Greenville, Miss.

The work it funds will address overweight and obesity problems in children and will focus on the implementation of a comprehensive, school-based nutrition and physical activity program. It will use the OrganWise Guys and Take 10! programs from Wellness Inc. – which already have been successfully tested as educational activities in other settings in Louisiana.

"This is a wonderful program," said Dr. Heli Roy of the LSU AgCenter’s School of Human Ecology. "It consists of innovative, educational materials such as books, videos and CD-Roms to teach children about important health issues."

Roy said the program is easy for children to understand. Materials used in the program use a cast of characters known as the "OrganWise Guys" who serve as teaching tools. This cast of characters brings the body to life and facilitates the communication of important health issues in a manner understood by children, she said.

Dr. Jan Hicks, an LSU AgCenter program coordinator, said eight schools from Northeast Louisiana will participate in the program. Those schools are Wright Elementary and Tallulah Elementary in Madison Parish; Delhi Elementary, Rayville Elementary and Mangham Elementary in Richland Parish; and Tensas Elementary, Newellton Elementary and Lisbon Elementary in Tensas Parish.

Hicks said coordinators of the program believe problems associated with childhood obesity can be overcome through comprehensive health programs designed to educate and change children’s behaviors in a variety of settings. One way to do this is to use 10 minutes of class time to let the children exercise, she said.

"For example, the students can do jumping jacks and repeat their multiplication tables – or other educational facts," Hicks said. "By doing this, they are reviewing their studies and exercising at the same time."

But exercises won’t necessarily be done during every class, she said.

The program will begin in the eight Louisiana schools in 2004, but organizers say it could extend into other parishes later.

"The LSU AgCenter has come up with a statewide plan to fight childhood obesity, and one of the goals in that plan was to work closely with young people to educate them about the importance of taking care of their bodies," said Dr. Ellen Murphy, associate director of the LSU AgCenter’s School of Human Ecology. "Our goal is to educate young people about eating more healthfully and increasing physical activity."

This program is just a starting point in the war on childhood obesity, Roy stressed.

"Childhood obesity is a problem everywhere," she said. "By initiating programs such as this, we’re hoping we will be able to see a difference. But it’s going to take a lot. We’ve got to start making community changes."

Others participating in the grant-funded project include the Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension Service, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service and other state agencies in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

For more information on this and other health-related topics, as well as a variety of other information on subjects ranging from lawns and gardens to family life, visit www.lsuagcenter.com or contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office.

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Contacts:
Jan Hicks at (318) 435-2903 or jhicks@agcenter.lsu.edu
Ellen Murphy at (225) 578-6794 or emurphy@agcenter.lsu.edu
Heli Roy at (225) 578-4486 or hroy@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

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