Fighting Childhood Obesity in Alaska
Keeping kids fit prevents disease, saves on medical costs
ANCHORAGE - It’s being called a national epidemic: obesity in the state of Alaska. And officials say it's hurting our kids.
Three out of every ten Alaska kids are obese, and will more likely grow up to be obese adults dealing with major illnesses. Fighting obesity has become a top priority for health advocates who are using a powerful documentary to get families off their couch and moving.
With 30 percent of kids in Alaska considered overweight, it’s what could happen when they’re older that health officials say will cost us more than we already spend.
“Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis,” said Karol Fink, who is the Obesity Prevention manager for the State of Alaska. “We're spending $459 million annually on medical care costs attributed full to obesity just in Alaska.”
That’s the reason they are using the HBO documentary “Weight of the Nation” to convince families to do something about it by teaching their children how to be active. “We're trying to improve quality of life for folks,” said Fink. “I know it sounds silly that kids should know how to be active; its not, kids need to be taught how dribble, to skip, to jump.”
That’s something cousins 7-year-old Dahianna Gonzalez and 8-year-old Kiana Castillo are learning as they go. “I like to go on the slides and swing,” said Castillo. “You need to be healthy, you need to drink lots of water.”
“I like to play on the monkey bars, hang on this thing upside down,” said Gonzalez.
The experts say it doesn't take much to be active. Kapeli Kahaka has no problem exercising, even if some of his friends are not. “Whenever we get bored we just go outside and go play volleyball,” said Kahaka. “Most of them does video games, just like the rest goes outside and go biking.”
With P.E. classes not the same in schools, it’s recommended that kids get 60 minutes of fitness every day to make up for it.
“People need to think of physical activity as doing daily activities and not just exercise,” said Fink. Advocates say it must include families doing it with the kids, because it’s not just about starting a trend to get your kids in shape, it’s about setting up habits to keep them healthy for their lifetime.
“They think that they need to go for a hike up in the Chugach, when instead they can just go to the park across the street,” said Fink. Officials say kids can break down the 60 minutes of physical activity into pieces like doing 20 minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening.
For more tips on getting your kids healthy click here.