State strategy needed
to fight child obesity


A national report gave Hawaii a "B" in its efforts to prevent and treat childhood obesity.

HAWAII has received a decent grade for its efforts at combatting childhood obesity. More is needed, however, to steer children toward healthy nutrition and exercise habits that will remain with them through adulthood.

The University of Baltimore gave no state an "A" for legislative efforts to reduce obesity, but Hawaii was among 11 states given a "B." California alone scored an "A" for its efforts regarding childhood obesity for its legislation targeted at the nutrition and diets of schoolchildren at risk of becoming obese, while Hawaii and 10 other states were given "B's."

The state Board of Education last year began restricting the amount of soft drinks in school vending machines. This year's Legislature voted for a resolution asking the state Department of Health to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.

Such a strategy is badly needed. The number of overweight children has doubled in the United States during the past 30 years. Some areas of Hawaii have obesity rates for children 6 to 11 years old that are twice the national average.

The rate of obesity rises from 10 percent at the point when Hawaii's children reach their first birthday to 19.2 percent at age 5. Half of Hawaii's adults are overweight or obese. Diabetes, kidney failure, cancer and heart disease are associated with obesity.

Former President Bill Clinton has linked his foundation with the American Heart Association in an initiative encouraging children, particularly those ages 9 to 13, to lead healthier lives. The goal is to stop the increase in obesity among American children by 2010.

"If young children ate 45 fewer calories a day," said Clinton, who was overweight as a youngster, "they would lose two pounds a year and be 20 pounds lighter when they graduated from high school."


Next fire might be
the most damaging


Two brush fires on the Leeward Coast were believed to have been started by arsonists.

FIRE bugs who think putting a match to brush is merely a mischievous act should be advised that they may be charged with criminal property damage and end up in prison for up to 10 years.

They also should be aware that brush fires take away firefighters from their other duties, such as rescuing swimmers and hikers, as well as fighting blazes at homes and businesses. They should know that brush fires cost taxpayers more than $1 million every year.

Officials believe that at least two of four Leeward Coast fires on a single day last week were intentionally set. One required 11 fire companies, nearly 50 firefighters and five tankers to put out and spread across 50 acres near Ala Hema Street, mauka of Waianae Intermediate School. Luckily, winds were blowing inland and no homes or structures were threatened, but the danger was real nonetheless.

Three summers ago, fire raced through about 1,200 acres in Waianae, stopping just short of farms, homes and a forest preserve of rare Hawaiian plants. The following year, 537 fires scorched hundreds of acres in mountains and fields in Leeward and Central Oahu. One near Haleiwa came within 50 feet of homes and businesses. In 2004, a blaze reached part of the Honouliuli Nature Preserve, threatening an elepaio habitat before being put out.

Summer's dry conditions heighten the chances for brush fires, the majority of which are directly caused by humans through negligence or intent. While accidents happen, arsonists are another story. Authorities say the public should keep their eyes open for suspicious activity, especially in areas where fires have been started previously.

Officials say Hawaii has been fortunate in that fires have not caused significant damage or injury to people, but as residential development expands, communities are at greater risk, particularly those in arid areas like Kapolei or where vacant brush land surrounds homes.

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