TUPELO - Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and Tupelo Public Schools Superintendent Randy Shaver return today from New Orleans, where they and other leaders from across the South learned how to combat childhood obesity.

They were among 30 city and school officials who attended the two-day Southern Municipal Leaders Combating Childhood Obesity Leadership Academy. Participants came from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The academy was sponsored by the National League of Cities Institute for Youth Education and Families in collaboration with the American Association for School Administrators.

"Over the past 40 years, childhood obesity rates have more than quadrupled among children ages 6 to 11 and more than tripled for adolescents ages 12 to 19, with the highest prevalence of childhood obesity found in Southern states," according to academy literature.

"This trend has dire implications for young people's well-being and life expectancy, and will further exacerbate rising health care costs facing local governments, businesses and families."

One of Reed's goals for his four-year term of office, which began in July, is to transform Tupelo into Mississippi's healthiest city.

Reed's strategies mesh with those espoused by the academy: encouraging children to walk and bike to school by creating safer pedestrian and bicycle routes; promoting use of the city's parks and recreational programs; collaborating with the school system on a variety of healthy initiatives.

"We're ahead of the curve, really," Reed told the Daily Journal during a telephone interview from the Big Easy on Thursday. "We've already formed those collaborations and started laying some of the groundwork."

Reed said he and Shaver might hold a joint press conference soon to announce some shared initiatives in relation to childhood obesity.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

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