The rate of obesity across the country is rising at an alarming rate and its growth is considered one of the most urgent health care threats facing families in the United States. This report considers the issue in the state of Arkansas where nearly 38 percent of children are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. In this paper, the authors explain the efforts made by the state leaders to combat the obesity problem. Among other provisions, Act 1220 of 2003 called for a number of measures to be adopted in public schools including improved access to healthier foods and beverages, the creation of local committees to promote physical activity and confidential reporting of each student's body mass index (BMI) to his or her parents.
In the school year 2006–2007, 99 percent of Arkansas public schools in 251 out of 253 school districts participated in the statewide BMI assessments. The authors describe some of the programs initiated by Arkansas educators to ensure that students in Arkansas schools are practicing healthy living habits. The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement has played an important role in working with policy-makers and school personnel to implement Act 1220. Although the progression of childhood obesity in Arkansas appears to have stabilized in the past four years, an unacceptably high number of children are still overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.