A State's Battle Against Obesity
Arkansas Takes a Frank Look at its Weight Problem
Long-steeped in a Southern tradition of fried delights, the people of Arkansas are saying no more. The state, from its schoolrooms to the governor's mansion, is taking an honest look at its weight problem and coming up with innovative ways to cut the fat. In a two-part report, NPR's Patricia Neighmond looks at Arkansas' strategy for finding out how bad the problem is, and reversing it.
Taking Stock and Getting Help• Arkansas used the "body mass index" formula to identify overweight children. Calculate your own BMI and find out more about the formula.
• Sample BMI Letter Sent Home to Arkansas Parents
• Arkadelphia School District Report
• Excercise, Nutrition Advice from Healthy Arkansas
• Exercise, Nutrion Advice from the American Obesity Association
• Revised Food Pyramid, from Harvard's Walter Willett
Part 1: A Letter to Parents
Alarmed by the epidemic of obesity among America's schoolchildren, many states have come up with plans to fight the problem. But there's only one state in the process of weighing and measuring all of its public school children to find out the extent of the problem.
The small town of Arkadelphia was the first school district to take measurements. What it found was alarming: nearly half of its graduating senior boys are overweight; the same for 10th grade girls. As part of a state pilot project, the school sent letters home to parents, informing them of whether their child is underweight, normal or overweight. The letters are a part of a detailed strategy for improving kids' health that includes banning some vending machines and increasing nutrition in school lunches.
Part 2: The Governor's Crusade
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was once was the most prominent obese man in the state. After a chest-pain scare and a diagnosis of diabetes, he lost 105 pounds. Huckabee has since taken his personal crusade against weight public and is pushing for several innovations, such as the conversion of sick days to vacation days for healthy people, replacing smoke breaks with exercise breaks, and requiring restaurants to publish the caloric and fat content of their food.