In Dec. 11 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Russell Springs Elementary recently received a fitness grant from the Lake Cumberland District Health Department to try and help curb child obesity, according to Assistant Principal Keith Emerson.
The $10,000 grant will be used to purchase a new fitness center.
"Basically, we're going to start a fitness program with our kids," Emerson said. "We're hoping to get (the fitness center) up and going when we get back from the Christmas break."
Emerson said all the students at the school have been measured and weighed as part of the fitness program.
"We have an idea of how many of our kids are at risk as far as being overweight and obese," he said. "We're just going to try and get the kids to become more physically fit."
The new fitness center equipment will be located behind the school building, according to Emerson and will have the appearance of a high-tech jungle gym of sorts.
Emerson has statistics of his school's population that show 11 percent of children are overweight while another five percent are obese. Seventeen percent of the school's population are at risk of being overweight.
"Actually, this is pretty consistent with the national average," Emerson said. "We just want to try and implement this fitness program and get all the kids thinking healthy."
Emerson said the school's nurses, Melinda Thomas and Bridgett Kean, will also be working with the children to assess their eating habits and food choices in hopes of changing them if they are unhealthy.
"We're going to evaluate the students as we go along and at the end of the year we're going to give awards to those that meet their fitness goals," Emerson said.
Lake Cumberland District Health Department Executive Director Shawn Crabtree said there are a lot of weight-related health issues in our area and that his department is continually trying to come up with creative ways to make change, and the nutrition and fitness school grant was one of those ways.
"We're glad for Russell Springs Elementary's enthusiasm and creativity on this issue and hope them a lot of success," Crabtree said.
Crabtree said each school district in the Lake Cumberland District Health Department's 10-county was limited to a maximum of one grant award and this year's went to RSES in Russell County.
Crabtree called childhood obesity a serious public health epidemic. He presented statisitcs that showed during the past four decades, obesity rates have risen among all Americans.
He said more than 33 percent of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese equaling to about 25 million children.
He said if the current trend isn't curbed, Americans are in danger of raising the first generation of children who will be sicker and die younger than the generation before them.
The grant that was awarded to Russell Springs Elementary is in hopes to reverse this alarming trend in at least one Russell County school.