Editorial: Nutrition, recreation need local, state focus
South Carolina is bucking the trend when it comes to childhood obesity rates, but not in the way we would hope.
Despite recent Center for Disease Control findings of childhood obesity declining among low-income preschoolers nationally, obesity among preschoolers in South Carolina has increased in recent years, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Health and Control.
In a four-year span from 2009 to 2012, the percentage of South Carolina children between 2 and 4 years old in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant and Children who are obese increased from 13.3 percent to 15.6 percent. It was a higher increase than any of 40 states included in a study of the program.
South Carolina also ranks fourth-worst in the nation in adult obesity, according to another study from the Center for Disease Control.
Overweight South Carolinians are prone to face a variety of health concerns related to obesity, including diabetes, heart disease and even some forms of cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight is a strong way to prevent those issues.
Fortunately, South Carolina schools are making strides in offering nutritional lunches for students, establishing a framework for future generations to be healthier. The Palmetto State ranked first in a recent study indicating how well states are meeting new, healthier federal guidelines for lunches.
Perhaps the most effective step to curb our growing obesity problem, particularly for younger South Carolinians, is to focus on educational initiatives to inform parents and their children how to eat nutritional meals.
Promoting exercise is also vital. The proper infrastructure must be in place for community residents to get outside, walk and participate in local recreational activities.
Thankfully, in Aiken County, we have several high-quality recreational resources. The City of Aiken has two excellent facilities in Citizens Park and the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center. In North Augusta, the Greeneway Trail and the City’s Rec Center are top-notch resources as well.
The problem locally and statewide is somewhat concentrated in rural and low socioeconomic areas where so-called “food deserts” exist. Because of a lack of nearby supermarkets, those areas are more prone to rely on unhealthier options. The state should look for effective ways to break down those barriers.
Locally, upgrades to facilities across the county, including Boyd Pond and Roy Warner parks, would also help to provide an outlet for the area’s youth.
Such recreational efforts, combined with increased nutritional education locally and across the state, will help put South Carolina on the right path when it comes to healthy living.