Group hopes to create obesity awareness

Community meeting Dec. 13
Dec. 10, 2012 @ 03:10 PM

Thomasville City Schools and the Thomasville Rotary Club will hold a community meeting next week to address issues related to childhood obesity and how to get people more physically active.
Representatives from various organizations throughout Thomasville will meet 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Thomasville Parks and Recreation central office to discuss ways the Chair City can continue momentum gained from the Rotary Club's Children at Play initiative. When the Rotary Club raised money to replace playground equipment at all seven city parks, part of the funds were set aside for a public awareness campaign aimed at increasing awareness about obesity. The meeting is the initial phase of that campaign.
"Having playgrounds in and of itself isn't going to really address childhood obesity," said Mary Jane Akerman, wellness coordinator for Thomasville City Schools. "We need to have people actually get out and use them. That's the purpose of this is to get input on what are the things we can do that will be impactful in our community. What we're hoping to do is get a blueprint or what to do next."
Some of the early ideas, Akerman said, include the introduction of an initiative similar to the TV show "Biggest Loser" to encourage obesity prevention and a healthier lifestyle. Representatives from Thomasville Medical Center, YMCA, Parks and Recreation, the health department, and other social agencies will try to formulate a three-year plan to address the arena of obesity prevention. Akerman said initiatives such as the Eat Smart, Move More campaign have provided blueprints that could be used locally.
Parental involvement is key.
"We don't want to have a great program if parents aren't excited about it," Akerman said. "it's not going to make a difference. We want to have programs and ideas that will engage our parents. If we're going to do programs to engage parents,  I would like them to tell us what they are and how I can do it."
Dr. Christian Brandyberry with the Thomasville Rotary Club said the public response to the playground initiative has been positive so far, and he hopes to build on that through the ensuing campaign.
"We want to come up with different activities so we can really put it out there that there is a problem with childhood obesity and obesity in general," said Brandyberry. "We want to reduce the rate of childhood obesity. It's an epidemic everywhere but we want to try and address here at home."

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or