Albany woman hopes to fight obesity both locally and nationally - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany woman hopes to fight obesity both locally and nationally

October 11, 2006

Albany-- It's getting harder for many parents to say their kids are healthy. The childhood obesity rate is rising rapidly. An Albany woman came up with a program to help change that. She'll soon take that message to a national audience.

15-year-old Antavious Powell is working hard, pushing towards a goal.

"I just want to lose weight," says Powell. It isn't easy.  Although he's only in the eighth grade, he weighs about 340 pounds and other kids can be cruel.

"They call me big and fat and stuff like that," says Powell. Antavious has developed his own defense mechanism while in school.

"I'm used to it. I just laugh with them," says Powell. But it's no laughing matter.  Those in the health field say childhood obesity has become a health crisis.

"In the last ten or fifteen years the obesity rate has tripled among middle school students and it's very much the same way here in Albany too," says School Registered Nurse Debbie Richardson.

That's part of the reason Pamela Jackson began the Youth Becoming Healthy Project.  She started the program in memory of her brother who died from obesity-related problems, something that started from his early childhood.  Jackson doesn't want other kids to face the same fate.

"I found that there were a lot of kids that were now having adult diabetes at early ages," says Jackson, "you have a large number of children that are as young as seven or eight years old that take high blood pressure medication."

To combat health problems early, children get active in fitness centers at Dougherty County middle schools. Soon, the program will get national exposure on a syndicated talk show.

"Hopefully this will help us get additional funding, additional sponsors, just have more people want to duplicate this in other areas," says Jackson. If all goes well, students in other states could soon feel what these Albany students feel.

"It makes me feel happy and proud that we have a program that lets kids come in and exercise daily," says 12-year-old Nairobi Payton.

Daily hard work already made a difference for many students including Antavious. He says, "I'm stronger and I can run longer than I used to run."

He says he still has a ways to go but this time next year he'll be using this momentum to dribble balls down the basketball court.   That'll be proof that the work paid off.

Right now, Youth Becoming Healthy helps about 150 students a year in four Dougherty County middle schools.  A fifth one will start soon at Merry Acres Middle School. Pamela Jackson will appear on the national talk show in the next couple of weeks. We can't say which show yet but it airs here on WALB.

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