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Woman fights child obesity

ALBANY -- An Albany woman wants to change the world where first-graders take blood pressure medication because they are obese.

Pamela Jackson, founder of Youth Becoming Healthy, spoke on the epidemic of childhood obesity raging in Dougherty County at Friday's Exchange Club luncheon.

"I walked into a school gym, and physical education was no longer mandatory," Jackson said. "Everybody was sitting in the bleachers. We went wrong when we made physical education not a priority."

Because of her more than 400-pound brother Bernard Green's medical problems with obesity-related complications, Jackson found herself in 2003 on a God-driven mission, she said. She founded a nonprofit organization, Youth Becoming Healthy.

Jackson acquired sponsors such as Merck & Co. pharmaceuticals and Palmyra Medical Center and convinced school officials that they needed her help. She was able to open and dedicate the first YBH fitness center at Dougherty Middle School three days after her brother died.

Since the first center opened, Jackson has been on a roll. She now has health centers in all Dougherty County middle schools.

Plans call for YBH centers to open in elementary schools.

Pediatricians have been writing prescriptions that just say, "Join Youth Becoming Healthy," Jackson said. Her work against childhood obesity has garnered Jackson national attention and awards, among them a CNN Hometown Hero recognition.

The Center for Disease Control reports that obesity in the No. 2 cause of preventable death in the nation. Georgia ranks as the sixth-most obese state in the country.

Those statistics seemed to catch the about 70 Exchange Club members at the luncheon off guard.

"When I walk in the mall, I see children eating too much candy, sacks of it," Shelly Davis, 77, said. "I'm greatly impressed by her work. Maybe if the children start exercising and eating right, they'll live longer than their parents."

To help in another children's health issue, the Exchange Club donated a $1,000 check to the Vashti Center in Thomasville. The center works with emotionally disturbed children.