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Georgia, fat and still growing: UGA initiative to address obesity epidemic

fatcutAthens, Ga. – The University of Georgia has launched a major campus-wide initiative to help the state address its growing epidemic of adult and childhood obesity. Clifton A. Baile, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor of Animal and Dairy Science and professor of foods and nutrition, along with the Office of the Vice President for Research, will lead the new UGA Obesity Initiative.

“The data showing how quickly our population has been overcome by this menace to public health are truly startling,” UGA President Michael F. Adams said in announcing the initiative. “Obesity and its related diseases are taking a huge toll on the health of Georgia’s citizens as well as the cost of health care in this state, and I believe it undermines our economic development efforts in multiple ways.

To develop this initiative, UGA will blend obesity-related instruction and research activities with its powerful public service and outreach components to develop obesity prevention and treatment programs that interested Georgia communities, employers and healthcare providers can implement.

“As Georgia’s land-grant university, UGA will harness its many and diverse skills and work cooperatively with interested parties, including other Georgia research institutions, to help bring this epidemic under control,” Adams said. “This is a long-term problem for our state and the nation that will evade a quick fix, but we must get started. The university is determined to play its part.”

Georgia ranks among the worst in the nation for adult and childhood obesity. Over 65 percent of adults and 40 percent of children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The steady increase of overweight infants—children under 11 months old—also is causing alarm. Obese children have an 80 percent probability of being obese when they become adults.

According to Baile, parents contribute to the development of obesity in children in various ways. For example, couples who are obese when their children are conceived and women who are obese during gestation also increase the tendency for their children to be obese when they reach adulthood.

The related health consequences and costs are equally staggering. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, costing the state an estimated $2.4 billion annually—the equivalent of $250 per Georgian each year—in direct health care costs and lost productivity from disease, disability and death, according to the CDC. People who are obese have average annual medical expenses $1,400 higher than those who aren’t overweight.

More than 75 UGA faculty members are active in collaborative teams with activities ranging from basic research on obesity, metabolism, genetics and disease to the development of pharmaceuticals, weight management interventions, gaming and mobile technologies for health messaging and innovative after-school exercise programs.

Collaborations with Athens Regional Medical Center to integrate obesity prevention and treatment strategies into healthcare are in the works. The initiative will coordinate the study and development of state and national public health policies and economic strategies to address obesity and metabolic disorders.

“Obesity is such a multi-faceted problem that it requires the combined efforts of the UGA researchers and the communities they’re partnering with,” Baile said. “The breadth of research at UGA and its status as a land-grant institution dedicated to serving the state make it particularly well suited to tackle Georgia’s obesity epidemic.”

The initiative will be based at UGA’s newly opened 56-acre Health Sciences Campus located near downtown Athens. When complete, the Health Sciences Campus will be home to the Georgia Health Sciences University/UGA Medical Partnership, the College of Public Health and other health-related programs.

The obesity initiative, developed with financial support from OVPR and the Provost’s office, will be strengthened through recruitment of faculty with nationally recognized expertise and by launching a $10 million fundraising campaign for the obesity prevention work as part of its larger capital campaign. The initiative will also receive support from the Georgia Research Alliance.

“The University of Georgia contributes in many ways to the progress and well-being of our state. Our effort to help curb this threat to our public well-being is just the latest example,” Adams said. “I am particularly enthusiastic about engaging our undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff in this effort; and we will look for creative ways to do this.”

More information about UGA’s Obesity Initiative is available at

Jasper planning commission denies zoning change on Green Valley Farm Road

greenvalleyfarmFor a second time, Jasper’s planning commission denied a request by Trust Company of Kansas to have over 30 acres surrounding Green Valley Farm Road along Hwy. 515 re-zoned from residential to general commercial. The city council will hear the recommendation at their February 6th meeting before making a final decision.

The property came under fire about the possible rezoning because, although it sits along the county’s main highway, it surrounds a residential area that saw its first homes constructed more than 25 years ago. After being denied the zoning change in 2010 when council members brought up concerns that restrictions and covenants already in place on the property would preclude the change to commercial zoning, representatives for Trust Company of Kansas took the issue to court where a judge ruled the covenants were not applicable to their property.

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Print/e-edition only for the week of Jan. 26

connelly-chastainTwo enter race for District 1 Commission Post – Bart Connelly (pictured left) and Charlie Chastain (pictured right) announced this week that they will be running for west end commissioner later this year. Find our more about each candidate in this week’s paper. Pages 4A and 5A.

Amelia McIntyre named Citizen of the Year – Longtime advocate of the arts accepted the Citizen of the Year award at this Pickens County Chamber of Commerce Winter Ball over the weekend. Read about McIntyre and her service to the community on Page 1A.

What do children and families here need? – Pickens County Family Connection will conduct a community forum to identify the conditions in the community that affect families in the area. This information will be used to create a long range plan for development. Find out when and where on Page 8A.

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State budget cuts could close doors at Jasper’s Burnt Mountain Center


If proposed cuts at the state level are fully instituted, the Burnt Mountain Center in Jasper, which provides work training to adults with developmental disabilities, would “dwindle away over the next couple of years,” according to statements from the center director Tuesday.

Executive Director Debbie Rooker said that up to $270,000 of the center’s $900,000 yearly revenue coming from the state Medicaid program could be cut under current state budget proposals.

“The new budget will rip us apart,” she said. “There is no way we can provide services.”

Rooker said if the state’s new funding model is enacted, the Burnt Mountain Center would eventually have to close the doors on its 39-year-old program, located on Pioneer Road. She estimated that would not happen at once, but by two years out, “we would dwindle away.”

The Burnt Mountain Center, which has served the mentally handicapped of north Georgia since 1973, is not alone on the chopping block.



Courthouse project to close streets


Courthouse Facts:

•When the courthouse is completed, it will be 50,000 sq. ft. larger than the original courthouse, which was 16,000 sq. ft. total.

•Approx. 13 parking spaces will be lost in the downtown area due to construction and reworking of the streetscape, but it is estimated between 120 to 130 spaces will be added in the new parking area behind the Piggly Wiggly.

•According to Commissioner Robert Jones, a portion of the property the county purchased beside Pioneer Road may be used for a judicial center in the future.

•Demolition of the rear leg of the courthouse will begin this week.

Following a presentation from Pickens County Commissioner Robert Jones, the Jasper City Council approved closure of a portion of Depot Street that will be used as a staging area during renovations on the courthouse.

Jones, speaking at the regular Jasper Council meeting held Jan. 18, offered a general overview on progress of the SPLOST-funded courthouse project, detailed the county’s proposed traffic flow changes around the courthouse and requested the council close Court Street and a portion of Depot Street, the roads that run parallel to one another on either side of the courthouse.

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