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For many, the new year brings with it a sense of
enthusiasm for setting and achieving personal goals. After a holiday season
filled with festive calorie-laden celebrations, these goals often include
losing a few pounds and maintaining a healthy weight. Many Alaskans have their
work cut out for them in this area. The most recent data shows that 67% of
adults in our state are overweight or obese – a number that has doubled in the
past 20 years.
Obese individuals have excess body fat that increases their
risk for health problems. Overweight and obesity ranges are often determined by
using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body
mass index” (BMI). While it doesn’t calculate body fat per se,
for many people BMI correlates with body fat and is a quick
and free way to calculate health risk. An adult is
considered to be at a healthy weight if their BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9. A
BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates the adult is overweight. A BMI of 30 or
higher in an adult indicates obesity.
Overweight and obesity are not just adult problems.
Currently, 26% of Alaska’s high school students are either overweight or obese,
as are 41% of 3-year-olds. Youth overweight and obesity are
calculated using the BMI-for-age
growth charts that account for growth patterns.
Efforts to curb youth overweight and obesity are
currently under way. The State of Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program
(OPCP), in partnership with a variety of organizations across Alaska, is
working to increase physical activity and improve nutrition. An extensive list of
those efforts can be found here, but
some of the initiatives include:
Healthy Futures — OPCP has partnered
with Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame to promote a
school-based physical activity challenge. Participation has been increasing
rapidly. More than 15,700 of Alaska’s elementary-age students, or 1 out of 5
students, participated in the Healthy Futures Challenge during fall 2013.
Every Day — Play
Every Day is a public education campaign designed to help parents learn about
the benefits of physical activity and provide ideas to increase the amount of
activity among youth. The campaign uses community and school events, as well as
television, radio, print, online and other resources, to increase physical
activity among youth and families and encourage participation in the Healthy Futures
Challenge and physical activity events.
Obesity Prevention and Control School
Grants — Beginning
with the 2013-14 school year, OPCP is funding 9 school districts working to
improve nutrition and physical activity environments. Grantees will implement
high quality physical education programs in addition to recess and before/after
school activities that will help students meet the recommended 60 minutes of
daily physical activity. Grantees also will implement other programs, such as
the farm-to-school, fish-to-school, and salad bars in schools programs.
Farm-to-School — In partnership with
the Department of Agriculture, OPCP helped fund competitive grants to schools
to implement Farm-to-School projects. Eighteen projects were funded that involved
35 schools from 17 different communities. The OPCP promoted the Nutritional
Alaskan Foods in Schools grant to help all schools
purchase more locally grown and harvested foods.
Salad Bars in Schools — In partnership with
the Department of Education & Early Development, Child Nutrition Services and
the Farm to School Program, OPCP provided training and resources to school
districts on implementing salad bars in schools. For the 2013-14 school year,
14 mini-grants were awarded to schools across the state for new salad bars.
Alaska Food Policy Council - OPCP
provides funding and leadership to the Alaska Food Policy Council (AFPC), which
is comprised of 200 individuals from federal and state agencies, tribal
entities, university programs, farms, fisheries, and food systems businesses. The
intent of the AFPC is to provide recommendations and information regarding
comprehensive policies that improve Alaska’s food system.
Foods - Partnering with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
(ANTHC) Traditional Foods, Contemporary Chef project, OPCP is promoting the
health benefits, awareness, and accessibility of traditional Alaska Native
foods. This project highlights the regional diversity and nutritional value of
subsistence foods and demonstrates through web-based videos
contemporary cooking of traditional Alaska Native foods.
- Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
Alaska Obesity Facts Report – 2012. Anchorage, Alaska: Section of Chronic
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Public Health, Alaska
Department of Health and Social Services; August 2012. Accessed 12-20-2013.