USM attempts to soar past obesity

Mississippi has held the title for being the most obese state in the country, tipping the scale with an obesity rate of 30 percent or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s obesity trends report.

In the most recent government survey, data reveals Mississippi under-weighs its Southern neighbor with an adult obesity rate of 34.6 percent compared to Louisiana’s 34.7 percent.

However, the point-one percent difference may be insignificant when focusing on the larger issue — Mississippi is still fat.

Inspired by the state’s unhealthy trends, students and officials at The University of Southern Mississippi are looking to make big changes in campus health.

A campaign similar to Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ program could be coming to USM campus, pending legislation and Student Government Association approval.

SGA Senator and Wellness Ambassador Kristen Dupard said the campaign’s primary focus is college students.

“The goal of this campaign is to make students on campus aware and sensitive to pressing health concerns,” she said. “We plan to have a big kick-off ceremony once we get the ball rolling with numbers, statistics, approval and etc.”

Dupard, along with Jodi Ryder, the sponsor of Wellness Ambassadors, said they are working on logistics and ensures “it won’t just be boring seminars.”

According to Dupard, the campaign will surface within the next year.

When informed about the possibility of the program becoming active, Abigail Elias, the coordinator for fitness and wellness at USM, was enthusiastic.

“I would be hands-in on that all day,” she said. “I’ll make it happen tomorrow; we’ll plan it out today and make it happen tomorrow!”

In the spring, Elias said to expect Biggest Winner, a fitness spin-off of the reality television series, “The Biggest Loser.” According to Elias, the program will initially focus on faculty and staff. A student version or combination of the two may be in USM’s future.

If health and wellness weren’t important, Elias wouldn’t have a job. She insists she will work with any organization supporting the cause. One of her biggest concerns is students not getting the health education they need.

“If they’re not being taught it at home, not being taught it at school and not reaching out to find it, then they’re never going to learn,” she said. “We’re here to educate people, not restrict.”

With the growing efforts on campus to promote health and fitness, Golden Eagles may leave USM less obese than they found it.