Schools need to increase P.E. and encourage nutrition
The state Health Department has issued a report to encourage better health.
HAWAII'S inviting climate for exercise no doubt plays a major role in the state's low rate of obesity compared to other states, while Hawaii schools' inadequate physical-education requirements keep the children at a middle ranking. The state must be aggressive in implementing a plan to encourage nutrition and exercise.
A study conducted by the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention, found Hawaii fourth-lowest in the country in obesity among adults, at 20.1 percent, with a Body Mass Index of 30 or more. However, that is more than twice the adult obesity rate of 9 percent in 1990.
Among children ages 10 to 17, Hawaii's 13.3 percent rate of obesity is better than the national average of 14.8 percent. Hawaii's obesity rate for children contrasts with reports six years ago that the state's percentage was twice the national rate. Those reports were based on a five-year survey of children in a poor, rural community in Maui County. Kwok Ho, an investigator in that study, told the Star-Bulletin's Susan Essoyan that the results should not have been used to reflect the state's overall obesity rate among children.
Mississippi, with the nation's highest obesity rate of more than 30 percent, has begun to take steps to lower it. A new law requires at least 150 minutes of physical activity instruction and 45 minutes of health education instruction each week for students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Hawaii requires only 45 minutes per week of physical education for kindergarten through third grade and 55 minutes weekly for fourth- and fifth-graders. From fifth grade through middle school, no P.E. is required, according to the National Association of Sport and Physical Education. Students are required to take P.E. at some point during their four years of high school.
Hawaii was ranked among the 11 worst states last year by the association in meeting physical-education requirements for schools. The association recommends 150 minutes of physical education weekly for elementary children and 225 minutes at middle schools.
Federal guidelines call for an hour of moderate or vigorous activity for high school students at least five days a week, but school officials have pushed those aside in giving priority to federal No Child Left Behind standards. Obesity should not be a consequence of scholastic concentration.
A 56-page plan developed by the state Health Department includes strategies for encouraging people to eat better and exercise more. Only 30 percent of high school students and 52 percent of adults get enough exercise, and one in four adults and one in five teenagers eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the state health director, said the effort to combat the "physical inactivity epidemic" should include workplaces, schools and urban design. She said cities have been designed in ways that discourage walking and bicycling, and that must be changed.