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Georgian Obesity Deaths1in10-*

Nearly 1 in 10 Ga. deaths obesity-related

ATLANTA (AP) — Being overweight contributes to nearly one in 10 deaths in Georgia, a state health study found. Obesity has been climbing about 3% each year among Georgia adults and nearly 60% of adults were either overweight or obese in 2002, according to the study by the Georgia Division of Public Health.

Obesity climbs about 3% each year in Georgia. The percentage of overweight children is also soaring at alarming rates, health officials say.

By Gene J. Puskar, AP

The study released this week also found that obesity is responsible for $2.1 billion in health care costs each year and about 6,700 Georgians die yearly from obesity-related health problems that include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

Health officials are trying to teach Georgia children healthy eating habits and to be more active. But about a third of the state's middle school students and more than a quarter of the high school students already are overweight or obese, the study found.

"We like getting them when they're young, they are at the formative stage and they're forming better habits," said Frances Cook, nutrition director for the health division. "We probably have a better chance working with the youth than working with adults."

State health officials want more daily exercise in schools and to increase students' access to healthier food, Cook said.

A study in February by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation found that 41% of Georgia adolescents do not get 20 minutes or more of physical activity three or more days each week as recommended. Less than a third of Georgia middle and high school students attend physical education classes daily.

But children need at least an hour a day of exercise, said Catherine Davis, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia.

In addition, health officials need to work with parents to help combat childhood obesity, she said. The study found more than a quarter of Georgia children under 5 were overweight or obese.

"I think telling the children what not to do is not going to be as effective as working with the families," Davis said.


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