Collaborative project focuses on combating obesity and improving children’s health

As schools wrap up another academic year, findings from a project aimed at improving the health of South Carolina’s children highlight the benefit parents and communities can gain by including physical activity in children’s schedules over the summer and beyond.

While positive steps have already been taken in South Carolina to address the issue, the state still faces a high childhood obesity rate. According to the SC FitnessGram project, nearly 37 percent of South Carolina’s youth are obese or overweight and almost half of them do not meet health-related standards for heart-lung fitness when tested on physical activities such as brisk walking or running.

‘Healthy students learn better’

This statewide effort to evaluate and improve health-related fitness among public school students is funded by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation as part of a partnership that includes DHEC, the South Carolina Department of Education and the University of South Carolina.

“The Foundation’s commitment to a healthier South Carolina starts by creating healthy habits in our children,” Foundation executive director Erika Kirby said. “We know that healthy students learn better. For the first time, we have statewide health-related fitness data that can be used to shape and support quality physical education efforts in South Carolina. We remain focused on the health of our children and will use these numbers as an example of the continued work to be done.”

While it has long been known that South Carolina has an obesity problem, this is the first time our state has compiled comprehensive data of this kind. Thanks to the statewide FitnessGram software and the partners that have collaborated on this effort, there is now a way of tracking the problem and, more importantly, of coming up with ways to combat it.

“The SC FitnessGram project provides important findings that are a great benefit to our state. It’s critical that we continue to support greater health-related fitness outcomes for our state’s K-12 students,” said USC President Harris Pastides.

Obesity has consequences 

During the 2016-2017 school year, over 100,000 students from over 700 schools in 60 school districts participated in the project. The program was administered by physical education teachers to students in the second, fifth and eighth grades and high school. FitnessGram assesses components of fitness that are known to be related to health outcomes in children and youth.

“The health and nutrition of South Carolina’s students has a strong impact on their future and productivity later in life,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “The collaborative support from both the public and private sectors in the SC FitnessGram project has provided educators and communities with valuable data to make informed decisions about the well being of our young people. I look forward to continuing our work and ensuring that South Carolina students are prepared for success.”

Obesity has important consequences on South Carolina’s health and economy. The economic cost of obesity in S.C. is estimated at $8.5 billion per year and growing. Obese and overweight children are at risk for several serious health problems such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Physical activity is key

“Increasing physical activity is a critical strategy to prevent childhood obesity and decrease the risk for numerous adverse health outcomes,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, DHEC director of Public Health. “Overcoming obesity is a significant challenge that South Carolinians must tackle together. It will take a concerted effort by parents, schools, community organizations, health care centers and others to help improve the health of our students.”

School-age youth need 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. In an effort to encourage more physical activity among South Carolina’s youth, several recommendations have been developed that people can use at homein schools, and around their communities.

The full SC FitnessGram report as well as other information related to obesity and fitness can be found on the SCaledown website at scaledown.org/fitnessgram.

DHEC in the News: SC FitnessGram, disease outbreaks in pools, Lyme disease

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

New research shows nearly half of South Carolina kids don’t meet fitness standards

More than one-third of South Carolina children are overweight or obese and nearly half fail to meet fitness standards related to brisk walking and running, new statewide data shows.

The SC FitnessGram project marks the first time this type of data has been collected across the state, a press release published by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control explained.

General Interest
1 in 3 swimming-related disease outbreaks occur at hotels

A third of treated recreational waterborne disease outbreaks during 2000 through 2014 occurred in hotel pools or hot tubs, according to a report published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly ReportCryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”), Pseudomonas, and Legionella caused most of the outbreaks in swimming venues in the United States during this time period.

Risk for Lyme disease at an all-time high

Ticks are small arachnids, ranging in size from a grain of sand or a poppy seed to an apple seed. Small they may be, but they can carry a big problem.  Ticks carry an array of diseases including Lyme disease.

Isaiah Lundmark, 10 years old, of Clifton, was diagnosed with Lyme disease in September 2017. Isaiah’s mom, Carissa Lundmark, 37, is trying to create awareness about Lyme disease and how this year could be the worst year for ticks.

American Stroke Month

It’s American Stroke Month. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When this happens, part of your brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs and starts to die.

Up to 80 percent of strokes may be preventable. Stroke is South Carolina’s third biggest killer. In 2012, 14,827 people were treated for stroke in South Carolina hospitals. The total cost of hospitalizations due to stroke in South Carolina in 2012 was $638 million.

Facts about strokes:

  • Strokes kill brain cells.
  • There are different types of strokes.
  • About 1 in 4 stroke survivors is at risk for another.
  • Prevention is key.
  • Time lost is brain lost.

From Other Blogs: Sun safety, protect your vision, eating out with food allergies & more

A collection of health and environmental posts from other governmental blogs.

5 Simple Sun Safety Strategies

Skin cancer can sometimes be deadly, and the treatment often leaves scars. Why take the risk? There are many ways to be sun safe. Find strategies that work for you and your family, so you can keep your skin healthy and still have fun! From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) The Topic is Cancer blog

Eight tips to help you protect your vision

From the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night, your eyes are working to bring you the world. In fact, your eyes deliver 80 percent of the information you take in every day, which is why it’s important to protect your vision.vision

Lisa Niven, OD, optometrist for Palmetto Health-USC Ophthalmology, believes you can take steps to help improve your eye health.  From Flourish, Palmetto Health’s blog

Going Out to Eat with Food Allergies

Rick, Lois, Angus, and Samantha visit a new restaurant to celebrate Rick’s birthday. They are excited to try the restaurant they’ve heard so much about. The host seats them and they start looking over their menus to decide what to order. Lois is allergic to peanuts, so she wonders about the ingredients in the eggrolls.

The server approaches the table to take their orders. Lois asks if the restaurant has an ingredient list for the egg rolls. The server says yes and brings the list. Lois sees that the eggrolls contain peanuts, but the salad doesn’t, so she decides to have the salad Food_Safety_iStock_000046432084_XXXLargeinstead. …

Before the restaurant opened last month, staff received training on food allergies including what to do if a customer has an allergic reaction. …

Food allergies are a growing public health issue—about 15 million Americans have food allergies. And food allergic reactions are responsible for about 30,000 emergency room visits and 150-200 deaths a year.  From the CDC’s Your Health Your Environment blog

Food Safety Tips during Ramadan

Ramadan is observed by more than 1 billion Muslims around the world. This holy month is a time of fasting and prayer for the followers of Islam, who abstain from food and drink each day from dawn until dusk. The end of Ramadan is marked with a celebration known as Eid al-Fitr, which stands for “breaking of the fast.” The celebration involves lavish dinners, which include delicacies and large dishes of lamb, chicken, omelets and salads.

During large celebrations, it’s important to ensure food safety measures are taken to avoid getting family and friends sick. From the US Department of Agriculture blog

2018 Predicted to be Challenging Wildfire Year

The USDA Forest Service is well prepared to respond to wildfires in what is currently forecast to be another challenging year. In 2018, the agency has more than 10,000 firefighters, 900 engines, and hundreds of aircraft available to manage wildfires in cooperation with federal, tribal, state, local, and volunteer partners.

Large parts of the western U.S. are predicted to have above-average potential for significant wildfire activity this year, according to the latest forecast released by the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). The “National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook,” released May 1st, predicts above-average significant wildland fire potential in about a dozen Western states at various times between now and the end of August, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. From the USDA blog

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is “Better Hearing and Speech Month,” a time to raise awareness about what you need to do to protect your hearing.

Did You Know?

Repeated exposure to loud noise over the years can damage your hearing—long after exposure has stopped.

This is just one of the many informative facts available on CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health’s new hearing loss website: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/default.html. From the CDC’s Your Health Your Environment blog

DHEC in the News: Flu, heart health, safety of romaine lettuce

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

This flu season one of South Carolina’s deadliest in recent years

Though flu season isn’t over, this one marked one of the deadliest years for the disease in recent South Carolina history, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

As of last week, 271 people have died across the state during the 2017-2018 flu season, passing last season by 177 people, according to Department of Health records.

 Flu season’s 271 deaths in SC were most in years

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Officials say this flu season in South Carolina was the deadliest in years, with over 100 deaths (more) than the previous one that had the most.

General Interest

Increasing exercise over 6-year span protects the heart

Heart failure affects about 5.7 million adults in the United States.

The most salient risk factors for this condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are: hypertension, a history of coronary heart disease or heart attacks, and diabetes.

Since this condition, once acquired, has to be managed for life, healthcare professionals recommend preventive strategies.

These usually involve making more healthful lifestyle choices by acquiring good dietary habits and exercising regularly.

Romaine lettuce likely safe to eat again, CDC says

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they believe E. coli-tainted romaine lettuce blamed for more than 170 illnesses in 32 states is likely no longer in circulation.