Drinking sugary beverages is one of the biggest contributors to childhood obesity, Jeffrey said. That's why many states are considering imposing or raising taxes on them, she said.
Jeffrey said the state has to continue to lower its childhood obesity rate if it hopes to have a healthy workforce when today's schoolchildren are in their 20s.
However, she said, programming and education are not enough to reverse the state's health problems. There also must be environmental changes. That includes having healthy choices.
"If you know you're not supposed to drink pop but you go to a church picnic and the only thing that's available is pop, are you not going to have anything to drink?" Jeffrey said. "If you're a kid and you're offered pop, are you not going to drink it?"
State Sen. Ron Stollings, a Boone County physician and chairman of the Committee on Health and Human Resources, said new federal legislation that sets limits for fat, salt and sugar in snacks sold at schools will help lower the childhood obesity rates.
Giving people access to places to exercise also will help, Stollings said, noting that allowing a community to use school property for exercising would be ideal.
"It's just something that's not going to change overnight," Stollings said. "It's going to be slow, and it's going to take a sustained effort on everybody's part."
Reach Lori Kersey at lori.ker...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.