Categorized | Health

Hawaii Education Matters takes on obesity

Kaiser Permanente presents a $5,000 donation to Hawaii Education Matters to help prevent childhood obesity and increase physical activity among youth. From left: Joy Barua and Frank Richardson with Kaiser Permanente Hawaii; Ann Davis, Hawaii Education Matters; Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi; Representative Isaac Choy; and Matt Lorin with the Learning Coalition. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7)


Education, health and community leaders convened last week at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii to consider the root causes of childhood and youth obesity in Hawaii. The informational briefing was hosted by Hawaii Education Matters (HEM) and sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Hawaii.

Dr. May Okihiro, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center pediatrician, JABSOM faculty and director of HICORE – Hawaii Initiative on Childhood Obesity Research and Education, presented her observations and research surrounding “Childhood Obesity in Hawaii.”

She also presented the multiple facets of the Hawaii 5210, Let’s Go! public health campaign targeted at parents and health providers.

Representatives from HopeLab also introduced a tech product, Zamzee, that is designed to increase physical activity among “tweens,” teens 11-14 years old.

Zamzee is an innovative way to leverage the power and appeal of technology to encourage healthier lifestyles, showing the emerging role of technology in the promotion of physical activity among youth. In scientific studies, Zamzee increased the physical activity of tweens by as much as 30 percent.

About 28 percent of Hawaii’s high school students are overweight according to the Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Although this rate is lower than the national rate of 32 percent, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study noted that Hawaii high school obesity rate rose from 10.5 percent in 1999 to 14.5 percent in 2009.

Also, according to the Hawaii YRBS, 40 percent of Hawaii’s public school middle school children and 31 percent of high school students spend at least three hours on school nights watching television or playing video games.

HEM is a non-profit grassroots parent organization working to build the capacity of parents to effectively engage with their child’s school. One of HEM’s programs – Healthy Families, Healthy Schools – aims to help parents create the link between a healthy lifestyle and student success.

Attendees were asked to generate strategies to incorporate these new ideas and technologies in Hawaii.

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