Group tabs leader to tackle county obesity issue

Any hope of reducing Jackson County’s obesity rate — the highest in the state in 2012 — will rest on several factors, including finding more sources of healthy food and promoting exercise through more parks and recreation areas and affordable gymnasiums.

Those findings came from a second meeting of the committee committed to finding the best ways to spend a $1.15 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During that Jan. 23 meeting at the Community Foundation of Jackson County office in Seymour, it also was announced that a program director had been put in place and would soon go to work.

The grant is being shared by Jackson and Lawrence counties. In 2012, Jackson County’s obesity rate was 39 percent. In 2007, that rate, which involves the number of people reporting a body mass index of 30 or more, was 31 percent.

Lawrence County had the state’s second-highest obesity rate at 38 percent in 2012. The lowest rate in the state that year was 21 percent recorded by nearby Monroe County.

One of the first orders of business at the meeting was to put an Indiana Healthy Community Champion in place for Jackson County.

That goal was accomplished with the appointment of Molly Marshall of Seymour as Jackson County’s Community Champion, said Richard Beckort, director of Purdue Extension Jackson County.

Marshall, who works with Healthy Communities through Columbus Regional Health, will start Feb. 1. Her job will be working with the committee and community to put strategies in place and build community partnerships that will focus on obesity reduction and prevention.

Beckort said since 2012, local groups and organizations have been working to address some of the obesity issues, but there has not been a coordinated effort to do so, and bringing those groups together to bring more focus to the issue is the hope.

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