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County ranks high in obesity

Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States and St. Francois County is no exception to the rule. The problem is found across economic lines and affects all ages – children, teens and adults.

According to Linda Ragsdale, RN, Child Care Health consultant for the St. Francois County Health Center, 44 percent of county families with young children – 2-5 years of age – are watching more than two hours of TV or videos every day and are gaining weight as a result.

“These are kids that should be outside playing,” said Ragsdale. “Many of them; however, are home alone after school because their parents are at work. Other parents are concerned about letting their children play outside unaccompanied. For whatever reasons, we’re seeing a major increase in childhood obesity and, with it, an increase in Type 2 diabetes.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported in 2008 that 16.4 percent of the WIC population between the ages of 24 and 59 months were obese in St. Francois County. This compared to only 15.4 percent statewide.   

The Center for Disease Control says that, between 2004 and 2009, Missouri’s obesity rate has dramatically increased across the state. Bringing the situation closer to home, statistics show that 31 percent of St. Francois County adults are considered overweight or obese.

“Missouri is one of the most obese states in the nation and southeast Missouri is one of the most obese sections of the state,” said Ragsdale. “We need to start make changes in our lifestyles to combat this.”

So, what can St. Francois County residents do to confront this problem?

“One of the most important things people can do is move, move, move – at least 60 minutes a day,” said Ragsdale. “Some cities in St. Francois County have very few or limited community activities promoting physical activities for children and their families. Take a bike ride, carry in groceries, wash the car, walk a dog, mow the lawn or even play Frisbee. Another thing St. Francois County residents could start doing is to start eating more fruits and dark green, leafy vegetables instead of heavy starches and sugar.”

A new documentary dealing with America’s obesity problem has drawn Ragsdale’s attention and strong support.

“The Weight Of The Nation” is an unprecedented collaboration of HBO and the Institute of Medicine, in association with the CDC and the National Institutes of Health. The first two segments will make their debut on the cable channel between 7-9:30 p.m. Monday. The series’ final two segments will be televised Tuesday night from 7-9:15 p.m.

“The four segments are Consequences, Choices, Children In Crisis and Challenges,” explained Ragsdale. “Also, the first part of a three-part series, “The Weight of the Nation for Kids,” – called “The Great Cafeteria Takeover” – will make its debut Wednesday night with all three parts to be shown during the back-to-school season this fall.

To reach the broadest possible audience, HBO says it will use all of its services – including the main HBO channel, multiplex channels, HBO On Demand, HBO Go and more. All films will be available in English and Spanish and will stream free of charge on, as well as on multiple platforms by participating TV service providers.

Ragsdale said she understands that, for whatever reason, it may be impossible for some county residents to watch the programs when they air next week.

“If there are people who are interested, we’ll show ‘The Weight Of The Nation’ at the county health center, 1025 W. Main St. in Park Hills,” she said. “Just call me at 573-431-1947, ext. 190 and we’ll do what we can to make it available.”

Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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