Athens, Ga. – Phillip L. Williams, dean of the University of Georgia College of Public Health, has accepted an invitation by Gov. Nathan Deal to help guide Georgia’s efforts to fight childhood obesity as a part of the newly formed Governor’s Advisory Council on Childhood Obesity.
The council will guide Deal on the best ways to reduce the numbers of obese and overweight children—a condition affecting 43 percent of adolescents in Georgia—and offer support to the governor’s Georgia SHAPE initiative, which makes decreasing childhood obesity a priority for all business, academic and philanthropic groups and leaders.
“I am honored to be included among the exceptional group of experts the governor has brought together to strengthen state efforts to decrease obesity in Georgia’s young people,” Williams said. “I look forward to leveraging UGA’s assets and expertise in obesity research, instruction and outreach to address this important public health issue.”
Georgia was once known as the state with the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. But in April, government statistics showed a 5 percent decrease in the state’s childhood obesity rate, dropping Georgia to the 17th spot on the list.
Georgia SHAPE is working to bring those rates even lower. Since 2011, the governor’s program has been working with children, parents and schools to increase physical activity and promote healthy, active lifestyles around the state. In 2013, SHAPE launched Power Up for 30, a voluntary program that encourages elementary schools around Georgia to add an extra 30 minutes of physical activity into each school day. The program also introduced the FitnessGram to Georgia schools, a tool that evaluates five different areas of health-related fitness.
In addition to Williams, the 16-member council includes Deal; Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. surgeon general and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director; and other leaders from the fields of public and private health, education, business and nutrition.
Dr. Rob Shreiner, executive medical director of the Southeast Permanente Medical Group Inc., will serve alongside Deal as the committee’s elected co-chair for the first year.
The council’s main goal is to move Georgia from having one of the worst rates of childhood obesity in the U.S. to the best rate, an effort that will ultimately ensure the long-term competitiveness and viability of Georgia’s future, said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“Obesity is the state’s number one health challenge, and we are extremely grateful for the dedication of this diverse group of people to making the monumental changes needed to improve the health of Georgia’s children,” said Fitzgerald, who also serves on the council.
Williams has served as the dean of the College of Public Health since its founding in 2005 and holds the Georgia Power Professorship of Environmental Health Science in the college’s department of environmental health science. Under Williams’ leadership, the college has more than doubled its enrollment with 900-plus current students and has graduated more than 690 doctoral, master’s and undergraduate students. He was appointed as an inaugural member of the Georgia Board of Public Health in 2011.