Deal launches fitness initiative: SHAPE program goes statewide to tackle childhood obesity

May 9, 2011

Today at White County Intermediate School, Gov. Nathan Deal launched Georgia’s SHAPE partnership, a unique public-private partnership to promote childhood fitness and build a culture of wellness among Georgia’s youth. The program will expand statewide after attaining successful results from five pilot programs in White, Hall, Gwinnett, Bibb and Lowndes counties this school year.

“Georgia has one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in the nation,” said Deal. “We know that childhood obesity decreases academic performance, increases the chances of sickness and disease and shortens life expectancy. We face a health care crisis in Georgia resulting from poor diets and lack of exercise, and if current trends continue, we may be raising the first generation of children in our state who are expected to have shorter life spans than their parents. More than one in five Georgia kids ages 10 to 17 are obese. Among low-income kids ages 2 to 4, about one in eight are already obese. The healthcare price tag for childhood obesity in Georgia is $2.4 billion annually, and rising.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is that this problem is fixable. The SHAPE partnership is an innovative approach to getting Georgia kids fit and on a path to healthy living. This puts our state on the leading edge of innovation in addressing this health problem, as we are one of three state putting a laser-like focus on fitness measures. SHAPE allows students to measure their own progress in physical fitness, and it puts the power of competition into effect as schools jockey for recognition and equipment grants through the Governor’s Fitness Honor Roll.”

SHAPE generates data through Fitnessgram, an internationally recognized assessment that measures the strength, flexibility and endurance of students in P.E. classes. Reports place kids in the “healthy fitness zone” or “needs improvement” on each test. Sophisticated data management helps kids and parents chart improvement.

The benefit of Fitnessgram, developed by the father of the aerobic fitness movement, Dr. Ken Cooper, is that it does not reward specific athletic skills or promote a particular body image; it determines fitness. The test results reveal slim children who are not physically fit as well as heavier kids who are. For more information on SHAPE, go to http://georgiashape.org/.

SHAPE is a partnership of Gov. Deal, the Arthur Blank Foundation, the Georgia Department of Education, the Department of Community Health and the Division of Public Health, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves.

The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation have invested more than $500,000 in the SHAPE Partnership, including a new $350,000 grant from AFYF to help take SHAPE and Fitnessgram statewide over the next three years.

“Thanks to the innovative leadership from Gov. Deal and the SHAPE Partnership, Georgia is poised to reduce rates of life-threatening diseases for a generation of children,” said Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, of which the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation is an affiliated fund. “Regular physical activity is a win-win, as it improves both students’ health and school performance.”

The partnership springs from legislation passed in 2009 with strong backing from House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth).

“We need to improve Georgia’s national standing with respect to childhood obesity, and that effort began with the SHAPE Act,” Coleman said. “This legislation has empowered schools to work with parents and communities to develop a sound physical education program and to assess students each year. We are now making great headway in helping all Georgian’s have a healthy lifestyle through increased physical activity and good eating habits. And I want to commend Gov. Deal for recognizing the importance of this activity and for recognizing schools that go above and beyond to deliver excellent results.”

Braves President John Schuerholz penned an op-ed about SHAPE in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution which can be seen here.