New Fulton program aims to get students more active in school

Fulton County school leaders are trying to get students to exercise more and combat childhood obesity.

The Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) Program is collaborating with Fulton County schools on new physical education curriculum ideas to be launched this month. The idea is to give students greater opportunities for exercise throughout the school day.

The PICH Program, created and funded through an agreement between Fulton County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014, is also providing financial support for the Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum (EPEC) in all Fulton elementary schools and the SPARK Curriculum in middle schools.

Those are research-based and intended to promote healthy habits in students’ lives. A daylong workshop Jan. 5 at Hembree Springs Elementary and Elkins Pointe Middle Schools in Roswell on creative P.E. instruction techniques attracted nearly 300 elementary, middle and high school teachers.

It was the second of four such training sessions PICH has agreed to sponsor in partnership with the school system, Georgia Department of Education, Atlanta Regional Commission, HealthMPowers and Georgia Health Policy Center. Fulton schools agreed to use the instructional resources after positive feedback from the first workshop in August.

According to a 2013 CDC report, the statewide obesity rate was 13.2 percent for 2- to 4-year olds from low-income families; 16.5 percent for 10- to 17-year olds; and 12.7 percent among high school students.

A 2015 independent research study estimated that 33.4 percent of children aged 2 to17 in Fulton County were obese or overweight.

Studies from researchers at the CDC and elsewhere show that in addition to preventing obesity, physical activity enhances important components of academic performance, including concentration, cognition and classroom behavior. But the 2014 Youth Risk Behavior Survey of Georgia high school students found that just 43 percent of them were physically active for at least 60 minutes a day.