According to Alabama Health Officer Donald Williamson, MD, Alabama ranks fifth in the nation in obesity while high school students in Alabama rank first. In addition, 40 percent of Kindergartners are overweight and obese.
Sheena Gregg, registered dietician and assistant director for Health Education and Prevention at The University of Alabama Student Health Center and president of the Alabama Obesity Task Force, coordinated a one-day summit in late October aimed at reducing obesity and creating a healthier environment to live, learn and play in Alabama communities.
The Student Health Center is operated by the College of Community Health Sciences.
The summit, titled “Alabama’s Wellness RX: Healthy Families, Healthy Schools, Health Communities,” was held in Pelham, Ala. and was hosted by the Alabama Obesity Task Force and Alabama Action for Healthy Kids.
The Alabama Obesity Taskforce, a volunteer organization, used the event to launch its “Re-Think Your Drink” campaign, a year-long campaign focused on trying to get people to make healthy choices when they decide what to drink.
“Rethinking those liquid calories, just letting people know that small changes can make a big difference when it comes to healthier choices,” says Gregg.
Williamson says encouraging healthier choices and offering healthier options could be a quick fix to the problem of obesity, citing food machines and sweet tea as significant areas of opportunity in Alabama.
In addition to Williamson, featured speakers of the summit included: Stephenie B. Wallace, a board-certified adolescent medicine physician in Birmingham, Ala.; Robert Murray, MD, a Seattle, Wash.-based endocrinologist who focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid dysfunction, cholesterol problems and associated metabolic hormonal disorders; and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox.
The summit, open to school professionals, community and government leaders, health care providers, health professionals and concerned citizens, had approximately 200 in attendance, including several representatives from Tuscaloosa City and County Schools.
“We are so very proud of [Gregg’s] leadership and the importance of this effort in the state of Alabama and our higher education campuses throughout Alabama,” said Margaret Garner, assistant dean for health education and outreach, interim executive director for the Student Health Center and associate professor of Family Medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences. “Her leadership has led to a very successful Twitter campaign directed at college students on healthy eating and activity tips.”