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Alliance holds first summit for healthy kids

Chef Rob Kinneen serving up healthy foods before his presentation on how to mix locally grown foods with store-bought ingredients.

When you talk about raising healthy kids in Alaska, you look at what they are eating, where they are playing, and how they are being active.

So it only makes sense that during the first Childhood Obesity Prevention and Child Health Summit held in Anchorage last week, the focus was about our home: The food was prepared by local Alaska Native chef Rob Kinneen, some of the key presenters live right here in Alaska, and more than 90 people from Ketchikan to Nome came to talk about how


we can help kids stay healthy.

The Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids, a new statewide group committed to preventing childhood obesity in Alaska, held the summit on Sept. 16 and 17 at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. The group spent most of its time focusing on the four priorities identified in the Alliance’s Strategic Plan to Address Childhood Obesity in Alaska:

  • Promoting high quality, comprehensive physical and health education for Alaska students;
  • Promoting the adoption of evidence-based guidelines for prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of overweight and obesity by primary health care providers;
  • Improving access to healthy choices and healthy environments for parents and children, to increase healthy eating, physical activity and breastfeeding; and
  • Maintaining a comprehensive public education campaign to promote physical activity and other health messages for children and their families.
Chef Rob Kinneen prepared meals made from Alaska salmon and locally grown potatoes. He demonstrated how you can mix Alaska-grown foods with store-bought items to create a healthy salsa.
Mouhcine Guettabi, assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, gave an engaging talk about the medical costs of childhood obesity. Dr. Guettabi has a work agreement with the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to determine estimates of the economic costs of childhood obesity in Alaska.
He presented a review of journal articles that have explored this issue nationally. He concluded that childhood obesity carries a significant cost in direct medical expenses, but even higher costs in indirect expenses over the long run, such as being absent from work, having lower wages and losing productivity. Considering that many obese children grow up to be obese adults, the cost of childhood obesity continues and grows as the child ages, creating a substantial bill down the road.

“A lot of the costs are incurred later in life,” Guettabi said. He said the possible savings are “immense” if childhood obesity can be prevented at an early age and the children grow up to be adults with healthy weights.

Workgroups with the Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids will continue to meet throughout this fiscal year to focus on and advance the four priority areas.