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Alcorn State Professor Educates Parents to Combat Child Obesity

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Children in Headstart Enjoying Outdoor Activities
Courtesy: Alcorn State University

A Mississippi professor educating parents about childhood obesity says the challenge is getting them to change their own eating habits. 

When Priscilla Houston talks to Headstart parents about childhood obesity, she's talking to herself as well. The 24-year old research aid at Alcorn State University is overweight and has high blood pressure. She's lost 10 pounds and is losing more. Houston now eats low-fat granola bars, less fast food and Baked CHEETOS instead of fried.

"I'm teaching the parents and to do it myself as well. Starting to eat more healthier. Instead of eating the sugary foods and fried foods start eating salads and baked foods," said Houston.

It's part of an eight week program called PACE, Parents and Children Engaged to Prevent Obesity. Parents learn to read nutrition labels, to only eat when hungry and the importance of exercise. Pace is federally funded through Headstart centers in Jefferson, Adams, Wilkinson and Amite counties. Alcorn Associate Professor of Human Sciences Martha Ravola, oversees the project. She and Houston are in Jackson, at a conference to talk about childhood obesity. Ravola says getting parents to change their eating habits benefits the child. But some are in denial about their child's weight.

"Parents say well my child is bigged boned or my child is solid instead of facing the truth," said Ravola.

Ravola says the truth is children of obese parents are at greater risk of becoming obese. According to the WOMEN, INFANT AND CHILDREN'S Program, 27 percent of Mississippi's children ages 2 to 5 are overweight. 

"It can make them adults who are lazy, adults who eat more, adults who do not stay conscious about physical activity and in turn it's going to affect their health," said Ravola. 

Professor Martha Ravola says by the age of 5, 90 percent of a child's brain has developed, which makes it harder to change their eating habits.