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Child Obesity Soaring in Rural America
Date:4/9/2010

overweight and obesity tripled in Bogalusa. The researchers didn't find any significant differences in the rates of overweight and obesity between the races. Data on family incomes and education levels weren't available.

Broyles pointed out that this study wasn't meant to single out Bogalusa, but to highlight a growing disparity between town and country. "Rural children may be more at risk for overweight and obesity," she said.

"In places like Bogalusa, you almost have a food desert. Access to whole wheat bread choices, fresh fruits and vegetables are typically more limited," she explained.

And, she said, she doesn't think Bogalusa is the only place experiencing unusually high levels of overweight and obesity in children.

Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, agreed that it's likely there are other areas of the country also experiencing substantially higher rates of childhood overweight and obesity. "What I'm hoping is that this study doesn't indicate that we have a growing dichotomy where a huge chunk of the country is getting better, but poorer, rural communities may be getting worse."

Although access to food and physical activity opportunities may be more limited in rural areas, Rao said parents shouldn't just resign themselves to having heavy kids. "There are a lot of things that families can do to reverse this problem. You're definitely more vulnerable because of your environment, but even in Bogalusa, not everyone is becoming overweight," he said.

Rao and Broyles recommended strategies such as limiting TV and computer time, encouraging physical activity and eating together as a family. They also recommended making healthier food choices whenever possible.

Broyles said that the communities and schools need to be involved, too. Schools need to offer healthy food choices and encourage physical activity. Communities
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