While North Carolina faces a major childhood obesity problem, there are programs in eastern Carolina that are reaching out to children to help them lead more healthy and active lives.
Marcus McNeil, 16 years-old, is one of thousands of kids in eastern Carolina dealing with a weight issue. He knows it's serious, and health experts agree.
According to one survey, one in three children in North Carolina is obese. Our state is ranked 14th in the nation for childhood obesity rates. Kids in rural areas are at higher risk.
Dr. David Collier, an ECU healthy lifestyle expert, says many kids and parents don't understand the extent of the problem. "Until you really work with it closely and really see the statistics, see the kids that are home bound because they can't get around at school because their so overweight, because they're being teased, sleep apnea, type two diabetes"
The excess weight doesn't only hurt the child--- it's costly. Dr. Collier says, "An obese child cost Medicaid about 3 to 4 times as much as a non obese child...that's a huge burden in our region"
It's a burden that East Carolina University, NC State and the 4-H Center are trying to lift. with a three-week long camp in Tyrrell County to teach kids how to eat healthy and exercise.
McNeil says, "If you learn a healthy way it can turn you whole life around." Marcus and other campers learn about portion control--they eat less of the burgers and fries, and try to eat more fruits and veggies. Plus, they are physically active. "I like the climbing wall and pool," says Marcus.
Camp director, Lee Scripture, hopes the kids hold on to their knowledge and pass it on to their parents and peers. "The quicker we can address obesity and help people change their life the quicker you're going to try to do things to avoid having those diseases"
If your child suffers with obesity, ECU's Brody School of Medicine does have a website to help give you nutritional information. You can click on the link below for that information.