The Center for Mississippi Health Policy collaborated with researchers from three Mississippi universities — The University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University, and The University of Mississippi — to evaluate the impact of the 2007 Mississippi Healthy Students Act on childhood obesity in the state. This research was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Bower Foundation and was conducted from 2008 through 2012.

assessing the impact of the mississippi health students act

The research comprising this evaluation project documents transformative changes
that have occurred in Mississippi public schools in terms of nutrition, health education,
and physical education. It outlines the close relationship between physical fitness and academic performance, illustrates the fitness levels of many Mississippi students, and evaluates the impact of the Healthy Students Act.

key findings:

  •  The research showed that only twelve percent of students could pass the complete battery of fitness tests, and only a little more than half of the students (55%) could pass at least four of the six test components.
  • The first two years saw positive results, but within the last two years, the progress has lapsed. Food Service Staff require additional training opportunities for promoting healthy eating and offering nutrition education for families.
  • Parent surveys conducted by Mississippi State University revealed little change in the students’ home environments. The findings also indicate that many parents do not readily recognize obesity in their children.  While 41 percent of Mississippi school children are obese or overweight, only 14 percent of parents described their child as obese or overweight.
  • To date, Mississippi is one of only four states reporting a measured decline in childhood obesity rates among school-age children.
  • A continued commitment to childhood obesity prevention through coordinated school health is essential to helping the current generation of children
    grow to be fit and healthy adults.

Mississippi initiatives to address childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is a critical health issue throughout the country and continues to have significant negative impacts in the State of Mississippi.  Mississippians recognize the seriousness of the problem and support public policies to address the problem.   Policymakers in Mississippi have enacted comprehensive policy changes in an effort to address the issue.  Early evidence indicates that these actions are having an impact in improving the health of school environments.

prevalence of overweight among children and youth in mississippi

The Child and Youth Prevalence of Obesity Study (CAYPOS) has been conducted biennially from 2005 through 2017 by researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, led by Principal Investigator Dr. Jerome Kolbo.  The multi-year study uses school nurses to collect height and weight measurements on a representative sample of public school students statewide in grades K through 12 in order to determine the prevalence of obesity among public school students and examine trends.  One of the key findings of the study has been the significant decline in obesity among elementary school students in Mississippi, and for the first time in 2017, there was a significant drop in the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity among all K-12 students. The 2017 data also documented improvements in racial disparities for obesity, reaching the lowest level in the 12 years of measurement.

what do mississippians think about childhood obesity?

Mississippians clearly recognize the seriousness of the state’s high rate of childhood
obesity and support an array of public policies to address the problem. At least one state, Arkansas, has demonstrated that aggressive, comprehensive action can halt the rise in child obesity rates. As policymakers in the legislative and administrative branches of Mississippi government consider implementing policies and programs designed to combat obesity in children, they should find a broad base of support from the general public for
these efforts.


Copies of the issue briefs, chartbooks, and reports can be downloaded here. Printed copies of all documents are available by contacting the Center for Mississippi Health Policy at 601-709-2133 or by e-mail at

Issue Briefs: