Promoting Healthy Daily Choices

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - September 12, 2007
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 Jessica Okubo
As Jessica Okubo knows, eating healthy can be as fun as it is flavorful - and colorful

My co-workers often tease me about how lazy I am when it comes to daily things like parking (I will drive in circles and circles and circles in order to get the closest parking space to our office), and driving versus walking the five minutes it takes to the shopping center across the street for lunch or a snack (I refuse to walk all the waaaaaaay across busy Kamehameha Highway, it’s too hot outside). And now that we have a refrigerated vending machine in our building filled with ice cream and Popsicles, my afternoon snack break has become quite enjoyable.

The irony to all of this is that I’ll happily lace up my sneakers for a five-mile run or even a marathon.

However, I know these daily habits of mine are really not anything to brag about. Honestly, I would prefer a bowl of fruit over ice-cream, but it’s just not as convenient sometimes. Actually, most of the time.

It’s situations like these that the state Department of Health Healthy Hawaii Initiative hopes to change with its first statewide Physical Activity and Nutrition Plan for Hawaii. The goal is to increase physical activity and healthy eating among Hawaii residents.

At a recent press conference, Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona noted that not everyone has easy access to healthy food and a safe place to exercise.

“To achieve goals for healthy living, we need to re-think how our individual behavior is influenced by the structure of our communities, workplaces and schools,” stated Aiona. “We have to deliberately change the options available around us so that these support healthy behaviors.”

The Hawaii Physical Activity and Nutrition Plan is the outcome of six meetings, held between October 2005 and April 2006, during which a multi-disciplinary group of private and public stake-holders submitted a broad range of strategies to improve physical activity and nutrition among Hawaii residents.

The groups represented a cross-section of community organizations, government agencies, and nonprofit programs. Data on obesity, chronic diseases and physical activity and nutrition among Hawaii residents was used to drive plan development.

Some examples of the plan’s strategies are:

* to encourage employers to implement wellness policies and programs that encourage healthy food choices and physical activity

* to establish and implement state and school policies to increase nutritional value of food distributed in the cafeteria, school store, vending machines, fundraising, and at school events

* to increase the number of health insurance carriers that reimburse physical activity, weight management and nutrition classes

* to create envrionments that are safe and supportive for students to walk and bike to school by creating accessible sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks

“Eating one more fruit and one more vegetable a day and engaging in 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day can help lower rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke and some cancers,” says state health director Dr. Chiyome Fukino. “In 2005, about one in five people in Hawaii were considered obese and heart disease continues to be Hawaii’s leading cause of death.”

According to the DOH, in 2005, more than 2,200 people in Hawaii died of heart disease.

“We really need to rethink the way our communities are structured and that includes worksites,” says Brian Kolodziejski, prevention specialist with the DOH Healthy Hawaii Initiative. “In this instance, worksites that really support the behaviors that promote physical activity and nutrition and healthy eating practices could offer healthy options in the cafeteria, at lunch meetings, in vending machines and at holiday parties. They also can have things that encourage physical activity, such as stairwell campaigns. Maybe even have walking meetings instead of just sitting around in a room for hours.

“Small things like that can really add to a culture where people are really being healthy and eating well and being physically active.”

To implement the plan, DOH is supporting the start of a new State Physical Activity and Nutrition Coalition to set priorities for statewide activities and strategies.

For more information or to get involved, call 586-4486.


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