Countering Childhood Obesity in Georgia


Countering Childhood Obesity in Georgia

Georgia Shape, a statewide multifaceted initiative, seeks to advance the health and well-being of children by utilizing a cross-sectors approach to tackle childhood obesity in the state.

By cultivating strong relationships with institutions throughout the State, Georgia Shape has been able to focus on upstream interventions, namely providing time in each students’ day for physical activity. Upstream interventions refer to programs and policies that impact the root causes of health or social conditions.

Through the development of community-wide interventions, particularly Georgia Shapes’ ‘Power Up for 30’ program, rates of childhood obesity in Georgia have started to  decrease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes school based programs to increase physical activity, such as ‘Power Up for 30’, as one of fourteen non-clinical community-wide interventions that can lead to cost-effective and cost-saving health outcomes within five years.

How It Took ‘Shape’

After the implementation of the 2009 Georgia Student Health and Physical Education Act (SHAPE), Georgia Shape was created to end the increasing rates of obesity among children in the state. In 2011, the Governor declared childhood obesity prevention as the number one public health priority and state leaders understood the importance of bridging the efforts of multi-sector partners to bolster the goals set forth by SHAPE. A governing council comprised of experts from a variety of disciplines was established to ensure that multiple perspectives were considered. Through the utilization of an obesity systems modelling program, factors contributing to obesity were identified, including a substantial lack of physical activity.

The overall goal of Power Up for 30 is to promote and protect the health of all children by incorporating 30 minutes of physical activity before, during, or after each school day. In collaboration with researchers, the Georgia Department of Public Health developed a comprehensive model to strategically focus and measure the health and economic impacts of school-based programs to increase physical activity.

The Power Up for 30 Model

Implementation of ‘Power Up for 30’ in schools relied on the support and acceptance of school superintendents and educators. Georgia Shape was promoted throughout elementary schools with messaging tailored to the interests of teachers and administrators to help garner support and establish applicability for the intervention. Tailored messages emphasized the benefits school principals, physical education teachers, and classroom teachers each prioritized including improved attendance and discipline, improved health, and improved academic performance. By identifying perceived barriers in each school, program developers were able to mold ‘Power Up For 30’ to fit each school’s specific environment and/or needs and assist teachers and administrators in achieving their respective goals.

School Based Activity Programs Increase School Based Activity Programs Decrease
●     School attendance

●     Academic performance

●     Concentration and attention in the classroom

●     Scores on State competency tests

●     Physically activity in the classroom

●     Childhood Obesity

●     Number of students receiving discipline

●     Negative health outcomes

Shape encouraged the utilization of physically active academic lessons as both a supplement to physical education in schools and to complement student learning. Former teachers served as subject matter experts to ensure the design of the program incorporated the realities of what would work in the classroom. Furthermore, the former teachers lent their knowledge of the unique needs of specific communities, which helped increase the programs ability to fit the diverse norms of different school environments.

In order to measure the effects of the intervention, the program assessed health knowledge, classroom physical activity time, time spent doing moderate to vigorous activity during physical education, availability of before school activity programs, and student aerobic capacity and BMI. For each school, data was compiled to discern the best available strategies for increasing physical activity within their individual environments. Buy-in and engagement was created at the individual school levels by training at least one administrator, one physical education teacher, and one classroom teacher to lead the ‘Power Up for 30’ program in their respective schools. Cultivating within-the-school leaders for the Power Up 30 program was a key to its success.

Success and Sustainability

At the beginning of 2012 the Power Up for 30 program launched across 40 Georgia elementary schools. ‘Power Up for 30’ expanded from a 5-county pilot program to a statewide approach by the 2013-2014 school year. As of 2016, more than 880 schools enlisted in Power Up for 30. Initially an elementary school pilot, ‘Power Up for 30’ is now embedded into Georgia’s elementary school educational curriculum and augmented to incorporate a middle school pilot.

Georgia Shape’s success in large part is due to its more than 120 partnerships and its sustainable and adaptable practices. Through utilizing evidence-based and sustainable models such as online training modules, low or no cost resources, free training, and continuous technical support, the Power Up for 30 program supports the implementation needs of all schools and educators. Assistance from public and private sector partners, such as the Georgia Department of Education, Department of Child and Family Services, the CDC, and corporate sponsors have been vital to Georgia Shapes’ achievements in tackling childhood obesity and protecting the health of every child.

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(December 2018)