Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Web site offers ways
to counter childhood obesity


A Web site launched this month gives children, parents and teachers help in dealing with obesity.

OBESITY among children has been identified as a critical problem nationally. Hawaii, where the problem is worse than elsewhere, has taken a lead in combating it through an interactive Web site aimed at educating parents, teachers and children. The "Get Healthy Now" site should get the attention of those who fail to realize the risks caused by excess poundage.

The Internet site -- www.gethealthynowhawaii.com -- was created by Melanie Kosaka, president of First Daughter Mediaworks, and launched this month with funding from HMSA and Subway Hawaii. Governor Lingle and Mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann have strapped on pedometers to promote the effort.

"Good health habits are one of the best gifts you can give your child," Kosaka told the Star-Bulletin's Susan Essoyan. "Our mission is to empower families with the right amount of motivation and information."

The percentage of preschool children and adolescents who are obese has more than doubled since the 1970s and has more than tripled among those ages 6-11, according to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. Research has concluded that 19 to 25 of every 100 Hawaii public school children fit that description, compared with four to six before 1980.

"Childhood obesity is a serious nationwide health problem requiring urgent attention and a population-based prevention approach so that all children may grow up physically and emotionally healthy," the institute concluded.

In addition to causing low self-esteem, obesity carries medical risks. A study cited by the institute showed that 60 percent of obese children ages 5 to 10 had at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor, such as high cholesterol, insulin or blood pressure, and one-fourth had two or more.

The cause, of course, is consumption of more calories than expended, and the Web site provides information about how to prevent that imbalance. Teachers are provided lesson plans for nutrition and physical education, parents are given tips on activities and recipes, and children are treated with games and coloring pages that emphasize fitness and nutrition.

By registering with the site, classes in kindergarten through third grade receive a free pedometer so children can keep track of their weekly activity. Classes with 80 percent of children achieving four-week activity goals will be rewarded with free Subway sandwiches and Jamba Juice.

In the Web site's first two weeks, classes in about 30 schools have signed on, Kosaka said. The state Department of Education should encourage more teachers to get with this important program.

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