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collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-10</hide>October 2020 ‎(3)
  
10/12/2020 4:00 PM

​OCTOBER 12, 2020 — The pandemic has made it harder for many Alaskans to feed their families. Reduced work hours or job losses have many parents worrying about paying for groceries. Kids unable to go to school or child care may be missing some healthy meals that families relied on to make ends meet.

KidsEatFree.PNGMany local, state and national programs are working overtime to ensure that kids and families are able to find safe, healthy foods during this difficult time. Federal programs are adding new services or eliminating some requirements, making it easier to get help. Local food pantries are being creative with the many different ways they’re providing food to an increasing number of families.

 “We know that before the pandemic, 20 percent of Alaska kids lived in homes that may not have had enough food,” said Cara Durr, Director of Public Engagement with the Food Bank of Alaska. “New projections now estimate that will increase to 28 percent because of COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, the number of emergency food boxes we distribute grows each week. Right now, more families need help to put food on the table.”

Here are some resources that can help families find food. Specifics about these programs are changing frequently. Check program websites or call to get the most up-to-date information.

School and Child Care Meals and Snacks

Free and reduced-price school meals are available through schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. Right now, each school district has its own plan for distributing meals. Some districts may offer free meals only to students enrolled in the program, while others may feed all students in their schools or community. Some districts may have parents pick up meals at a distribution site, while others may deliver meals directly to students. If a family did not qualify for free or reduced-price meals last year, they can apply again if they have recently lost job hours, experienced layoffs or had a change in circumstances that reduced their family’s income. Contact your local school or school district to learn more about how they’re distributing food and how to apply.

Child care centers, family day care homes, and afterschool programs that participate in the Child and Adult Care Food Program provide healthy meals and snacks to children of all ages. Some of these sites may be providing grab-and-go meals for kids or families. To find a list of agencies operating the CACFP in Alaska, visit the program’s website.

Head Start and Early Head Start are child care programs for children from birth to age five. Along with high-quality education and health services, Head Start provides healthy, nutritious meals for children. At this time, some Head Start programs are operating, but with a more limited capacity, while others are providing grab-and-go meals or food boxes for families. Head Start programs are located throughout Alaska. Go online to find a Head Start program in your area. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meals 4 Kids is an interactive map to find nearby sites that provide summer meals for kids when school is not in session. The USDA has extended the Summer Food Service Program through December 2020, so many of these programs may still be providing meals to students.  Before you go, contact the program you find on the map to get the latest information.

Food Credit Cards

The Alaska Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly “Food Stamps” — provides a monthly benefit on an electronic benefits card called an “Alaska Quest Card” for food purchases at participating stores. During each month of the pandemic emergency, the federal government may approve Alaska’s request to increase the monthly SNAP benefit. People can apply for SNAP by completing an application and submitting it to any of the Division of Public Assistance Offices through fax, mail or drop boxes in the lobbies. People needing help also can contact the Division of Public Assistance or the Food Bank of Alaska. For up-to-date information, visit the Division of Public Assistance SNAP webpage or the Food Bank’s COVID-19 SNAP Updates website, or contact the SNAP Outreach team at (907) 222-3119 (call), (907) 891-8913 (text), or snap@foodbankofalaska.org.

The Pandemic-Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program provided additional benefits for families with kids who missed school meals last year (2019-2020 school year), when schools closed due to the pandemic. More funding may be approved to extend the program. Check with the Division of Public Assistance website for updates. 

The Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) provides nutrition and breastfeeding education, counseling, support, nutritious foods and referrals to needed services. WIC serves babies and children up to age 5, pregnant women, and new mothers. If you are a mother, father, grandparent, foster parent or other legal guardian of a child under 5 years of age, you can apply for your child. Participants receive an eWIC card to purchase specific foods containing the nutrients that women, infants, and children need during pregnancy, breastfeeding, infancy and early childhood. 

Due to the pandemic, clients can set a WIC appointment and become eligible without visiting a clinic. To apply, visit the Division of Public Assistance website, contact your local WIC clinic or call (907) 465-3100 to schedule an appointment. The Alaska WIC Program also operates the only program in the country that mails WIC foods to eligible clients if they are unable to access an authorized WIC vendor. Beginning in December 2020, Alaska WIC’s new Balto Box program will allow rural participants to place online or phone orders for their WIC foods.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides monthly commodity food boxes to low-income seniors in limited areas of the state. To apply, visit the state website​

Food Banks, Food Pantries and Food Boxes

The Food Bank of Alaska has many different programs and resources to ensure Alaskans have access to food. Their COVID-19 Food Resources web page lists multiple services currently available for Anchorage and Mat-Su families. Use the virtual map on the Statewide Resources page to find services in communities throughout Alaska. 

Check out the useful calendar that lists the most current hot meal sites and food pantries in Anchorage, Girdwood, Eagle River and Mat-Su. The calendar also lists mobile food pantry sites and emergency pop-up sites for Anchorage. The calendar contains a map, addresses, and the People Mover bus numbers for Anchorage sites.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides emergency food boxes at no cost to Alaska families with lower incomes. TEFAP has recently increased the number of people who are eligible to receive these food boxes. To see if you qualify, apply online at the application web page. To see if TEFAP is available in your community, search “TEFAP” on the Food Bank of Alaska Statewide Resources​ interactive map.  

The Children’s Lunchbox in Anchorage provides food boxes at several distribution sites. The boxes contain dinners and snacks for two days for each child. Families will also be able to receive grab-and-go pantry boxes of shelf-stable meals for a family of four while supplies last. Check out the website for locations, dates and times of food box distribution, as well as open meal sites for kids. 

The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is run by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The program provides food boxes with a month’s supply of nutritious foods to Alaska Native, American Indian and non-Indian households that meet income requirements. It’s a great alternative to SNAP for people who don’t live near a grocery store. To see a current list of active federally recognized tribes that participate in Alaska’s program, visit the website, email glnothstine@anthc.org​, or call (907) 729-2975.

There are many other local food pantries and programs throughout Alaska. Alaska 2-1-1 can help connect all Alaskans to these food resources, no matter where they live. Search the 2-1-1 database, email Alaska211@ak.org, or call 2-1-1 or (800) 478-2221.



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10/9/2020 10:59 AM

​Increased chances of spreading illness as COVID-19 cases climb and sports move indoors

BLOG UPDATE (OCTOBER 23, 2020) – DHSS would like to clarify that we follow CDC guidance for youth sports, which recommends that you wear a mask if possible. Read the guidance for details.

During a statewide meeting this Monday, doctors from the Alaska and Anchorage health departments strengthened their guidance for wearing masks given rising COVID-19 cases and a move to indoor sports. Doctors recommend that all youth athletes wear masks when they’re playing or competing — even when that activity is vigorous. 

In the summer and fall, coaches, school districts and athletic associations wrote COVID-19 mitigation plans for youth sports that prioritized wearing face coverings while on the sidelines, coaching or watching. Players could choose to wear masks while engaged in vigorous activity, but some mitigation plans said athletes didn’t have to wear face coverings during exertion. 

Whywewearmasks.jpgAlaska’s lead doctors now strongly recommend wearing face coverings for sports, especially for indoor sports, including playing basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, and playing hockey and indoor soccer. That same strong recommendation for mask wearing goes for adults working out, running on treadmills, or exercising in other ways in indoor gyms. The exception? Swimmers can’t wear a mask when their faces are in the water (but they do need to wear one on the pool deck). 

“I am 100 percent in favor of safe distancing and universal masking,” said Dr. Bruce Chandler, chief medical officer with the Anchorage health department. “Unless our face is underwater, I think we should all be wearing masks when we’re around people — except when we’re at home.”

If all youth athletes wear masks, that also levels the playing field and eliminates any competitive advantage attached to not wearing a mask, said Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen, staff physician with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. 

COVID-19 cases increasing statewide, mainly in larger communities

COVID-19 cases are increasing significantly in Alaska. Nearly 1,000 new infections have been reported during the past week, Ohlsen said. 

“The majority of the cases are increasing in Fairbanks and in Anchorage. In those two communities, they are increasing very quickly,” Ohlsen said.

When the number of cases goes up, it increases your chances of being exposed to someone who’s sick and does not know it while you play sports or attend a gathering, Ohlsen said. These interactions can keep increasing the spread of COVID-19 throughout communities and beyond if you’re traveling from one city to another for competitions or events. 

Until now, many sports held during the pandemic were outside where there’s fresh air circulating and space to spread out from others. 

“With indoor sports, this gets much trickier,” Ohlsen said. 

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, discussed a new update to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance about how COVID-19 can spread​. The recent update states there’s good evidence that COVID-19 can spread person-to-person through airborne transmission of very small virus particles that can remain suspended in the air, not just through respiratory droplets that you might breathe, yell, sing, cough, or sneeze out. Airborne transmission appears to be a much less common way for the virus to spread than close-range (less than 6 feet) respiratory droplet transmission. Documented airborne transmissions have typically involved the presence of an infectious person being in an enclosed and poorly ventilated space for an extended period of time (more than 30 minutes). Enough virus was present in the space to cause infections in people who were more than 6 feet away or who passed through that space soon after the infectious person had left.

“This underscores the importance of avoiding congregate settings and wearing a mask when you are in an enclosed space with others, even if you are able to maintain a 6-foot distance from them,” McLaughlin said.   

Multiple sports teams under quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure

Youth sports teams across the state are also reporting COVID-19 cases and possible exposures. The Anchorage School District (ASD), for example, reported 14 teams undergoing 14-day quarantine periods due to potential virus exposure from a teammate or coach, said Marty Lang, an ASD director of secondary education, at Monday’s meeting. Eleven of those 14 teams under quarantine play indoor sports, he said. ASD issued a two-week stop to high school volleyball after multiple teams at a handful of schools reported COVID-19 illness, related symptoms, or exposure to illness.

“We definitely seem to be seeing more outbreaks indoors than with our outdoor sports,” he said.

Lang joined Holly Zumbro, ASD principal of activities and student services, at the meeting Monday to share updates about fall sports mitigation plans. They also asked questions to inform upcoming mitigation plans for soon-to-start winter sports.

As of Oct. 5, ASD had not reported a case of COVID-19 transmission from one team member to another. The state health department, however, has seen likely person-to-person transmission linked to youth sports not associated with school. Lang said ASD had a student athlete who practiced and competed while having COVID-19 symptoms for almost a week before reporting those symptoms. He said the district is reinforcing that student athletes should not come to practice or competitions when feeling ill. Locker rooms should be limited to use of bathrooms and athletes should come dressed to play for practice or competitions, said state health department leaders. 

Take the time now to try many masks and choose what’s most comfortable

Ohlsen knows firsthand that you can wear masks during sports and still perform well, even when competing. She’s been wearing masks for years while cross country skiing to minimize symptoms from exercise- and cold-induced asthma.

Ohlsen recommended that families help youth athletes find the masks that work for them. They can try many different types to find ones that are comfortable on their faces and allow them to breathe while playing or competing at a vigorous level. At first, wear the masks for short bouts of activity. Then work up to wearing the mask all the time during sports, Ohlsen said, even during full exertion at competitions.

“I have found it really helpful to have different masks for different activities and different levels of intensity,” said Ohlsen.

“It is something that you can get used to.”

Some people prefer to exercise while wearing surgical masks. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, likes to wear this type of mask while running outside and when she may be around other people on the trails. For light bike rides, hikes, and trips to the grocery store, Ohlsen wears double-layer cloth masks that are easy to wash in the laundry, using hot water and detergent. When she skis longer distances, Ohlsen wears a buff that she can fold over to provide a double layer of fabric over her mouth and nose. This still allows her to breathe during exertion. She chooses a neoprene mask when she’s skiing in below-zero temperatures.

Slowing the spread of COVID on the sports field requires being careful off the field

Wearing masks during sports practices and competitions can help prevent the spread of illness on the basketball court, field or trails. But that only accounts for actions taken during an hour or so each day. How athletes act during the other 23 hours of their days can have a huge impact on spreading illness — or not — among their teammates, coaches and spectators, said Ohlsen and other Alaska doctors. 

“A lot of what we’re seeing is kids passing it to kids, not in our athletic venues, but in driving in cars together, participating in sleepovers, pizza parties – all of those sort of natural social behaviors of teenagers,” said Lang from ASD.

These day-to-day decisions that include wearing face coverings when near others have big impacts on the amount of virus spreading in communities. Zink acknowledged that we would all rather not wear masks, but this won’t last forever. This fall and winter, while cases are high prior to getting a vaccine, masks are a tool we can all use to protect our communities and our kids, she said.   

Wearing masks while playing sports could protect children’s and teen’s health today and for years to come.  

“Masks slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, but also help to protect the people wearing them,” Zink said. “COVID is new and we are still learning a lot about the long-term health impacts, even in young athletes. A mask can help protect their long-term health as well.”

SOCIAL-MyMaskProtectsYou.jpg



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10/1/2020 12:58 PM

​Celebrating holidays during a pandemic requires creative thinking and new traditions

OCTOBER 1, 2020 — We’re one month away from the holiday many kids — and adults — look forward to every year. And rest assured: Halloween is not canceled.

Traditional trick-or-treating with kids gathering on doorsteps isn’t recommended during the pandemic, but it’s the perfect year to try some creative ways to celebrate the day.

Untitled_Artwork 18.jpgWhat about rigging a zipline from your doorstep to the end of your driveway, where a bucket drops a treat into a child’s bag? 

Or stringing up a fishing pole so you can dangle treats near kids, from at least 6 feet away? Just be careful and don't use a hook.

It’s this new kind of thinking that’s going to win Halloween this year. Families who love Halloween and other holidays can and should celebrate during the pandemic. They’ll need to take a different approach, however, and come up with new ways to enjoy the day. 

“It’s a great year to decorate. It’s a great year to share holiday greetings from a distance,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ohlsen, a family physician with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “It’s not a great year to ring a doorbell or hand out treats from your doorstep.”

Ohlsen assures families that there are fun ways to celebrate — even trick-or-treat — that don’t involve getting too close to other people. 

“I think there are ways of doing it that can still capture the joy of Halloween,” she said.

Should families avoid trick-or-treating during a pandemic?

For years, children have trick-or-treated by gathering in groups, going to a doorstep, ringing a doorbell and then receiving a treat from the person who answers the door. That kind of trick-or-treating isn’t recommended during a pandemic, Ohlsen said. 

She recommends a new approach this year. The CDC recently published guidance on safer ways to celebrate Halloween and other holidays.

The lowest-risk way to celebrate Halloween is to dress up in costumes as a family and have a party at home with just your household. Carve pumpkins and roast the seeds, which happen to be a nutritious snack​. Create a new tradition of making Halloween-themed foods and then sharing them while you watch a movie together. Or borrow a tradition from another holiday: Hide a few Halloween treats inside or outside the house and have your child find them — à la Easter egg hunting. Families nationwide are sharing ideas, like making the hunt even spookier by giving kids a flashlight to search for their treasures in the dark. More fun ideas, like scavenger hunts around your home and virtual costume contests, are found in the CDC holiday guidance​

COVID Halloween-01.jpgIf your family chooses to trick-or-treat, Ohlsen recommends these changes this year: Children should only trick-or-treat with family members, not with other friends or people outside their household. They should visit houses that are prepared to deliver treats only at a distance, not from the doorstep. All children and parents who are with them should wear face coverings. 

If your family chooses to welcome trick-or-treaters this year, they should minimize close contact with others. Find creative ways to deliver treats from a distance, and have children only touch the treat they’ll take. Considering clipping individual treats to a clothesline, or hanging them from a tree. Thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands before touching any treats you will give to people outside your household. Distribute only treats in wrappers, and nothing homemade, Ohlsen said. 

You can make these changes and still enjoy seeing all the costumed children. Put on your face covering and sit on lawn chairs outside to watch the children pick up treats from a distance. Stand on your front porch and wave as the little ghosts and goblins pass by. 

If you or a family member has COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, don’t participate in in-person Halloween celebrations or trick-or-treat, and don’t hand out treats to children. Play Every Day also shares this suggestion to maximize the fun and minimize the sugar overload: Families can make the Halloween handoff even healthier by swapping the treat for a toy, glow-in-the-dark sticks or something else that’s not eaten. 

Some families may not be comfortable with trick-or-treaters coming to their homes this year. What’s a friendly way to let children know you aren’t handing out treats?

“I think there are easy ways to signal whether a house is prepared for trick-or-treating this year, and many houses may not be,” Ohlsen said.

Turning your porch lights off lets families know you aren’t handing out treats. You also can make fun signs or arrange Halloween decorations to encourage people not to approach your doorstep.

Older kids and adults enjoy Halloween, too. Should they visit a haunted house or attend a party this year?

Indoor haunted houses and Halloween parties should be avoided because they increase chances of spreading COVID-19. 

“With cases rising in our two biggest metropolitan areas, this means that gathering indoors — even with people you know who are outside your household bubble — is a very risky activity,” Ohlsen said.

There’s typically less ventilation and space for physical distancing with indoor parties than outdoor gatherings. Outdoor parties should limit attendees, allow physical distance between guests, provide ways to wash or sanitize hands and commonly touched surfaces, and require everyone to wear face coverings (not just Halloween masks), Ohlsen said. Don’t serve homemade treats, she said, and avoid sharing any foods or drinks with others. 

Outdoor parties with just a few close friends, with everyone masked up and physically distanced, are the safest bet. Older kids and adults might also choose a more active option, meeting a few friends for a hike or a bike ride, in costume or riding decorated bikes. Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, so we have all day to celebrate. 

Your family has a deep collection of costume masks: superheroes, pirates, ghosts. On Halloween, can you substitute those costume-style masks for the face coverings you’ve been wearing to prevent spreading COVID-19?

A typical Halloween mask doesn’t offer the same type of protection against COVID-19 that a surgical mask or fabric face covering provides. Make sure children who are trick-or-treating use a covering that provides a double layer of fabric over their nose and mouth, Ohlsen said. The CDC advises against layering a Halloween mask over a fabric face covering because that could make it harder to breathe. Instead, modify the costume so it allows the child to wear the protective face covering, Ohlsen said. Better yet: Decorate your protective face covering so it matches your costume. 

Families, keep that hand sanitizer ready. Children should limit touching their masks and should use hand sanitizer before touching the mask and before and after eating any treats. Ohlsen recommended that children wait until they finish trick-or-treating to thoroughly wash their hands and then touch any contents of the bag.

Is there anything else to consider before kids dig into their bag of treats?

Currently, the CDC holiday guidelines state there’s no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is linked with directly spreading COVID-19. It’s possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching an object, like food or food packaging, that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. However, the CDC states this is not thought to be the main way that the virus is spreading. COVID-19 virus is mainly spread person-to-person.

Even so, it’s hard to know who all touched the treats in the bag by the time your child gets home from trick-or-treating, Ohlsen said. Given that, you may want to wash or sanitize your hands well and then wipe down the packaging on the treats with a disinfectant wipe or rubbing alcohol, she said. Make sure you don’t directly use cleaning chemicals, however, on anything your child will eat. After disinfecting the packaging, make sure the wrappers completely dry or are washed free of chemicals before your child touches them. 

Got patience? Ohlsen said another option would be to let the bag of treats sit for a day or longer before giving them to your child.


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collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-09</hide>September 2020 ‎(2)
  
9/21/2020 10:21 AM

​SEPTEMBER 21, 2020 — Open your cupboard and pull out the cereal boxes. Take a quick look at the words on the front: 

  • Made with whole grains
  • Natural fruit flavors
  • Good source of fiber

Added Sugar Cereal Box 2020.jpegNow turn that box around. Look at the ingredient list, and then check the Nutrition Facts for added sugar. Here’s what you might find on those colorful boxes branded to appeal to young kids:

  • Added sugar often shows up one or more times near the top of the ingredient list.
  • One bowl of sweetened cereal can have as much added sugar as three powdered mini doughnuts or a chocolate candy bar.
  • Fruit may be in the name, but there’s no actual fruit in the cereal.

“Parents are trying to choose healthy foods and drinks for their kids, but reading the front of the packages can make it tricky to figure out what’s healthy, and what’s not,” said Diane Peck, registered dietitian with Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Program. “Food companies don’t have to name all the ingredients — including the added sugar — on the front of the package, but they do on the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list. Next time you shop, take a minute to look beyond the words on the front and turn the box around to find cereals that are low in added sugar and high in whole grains and fiber.”

Look for cereals with no or low added sugar

Sugary drinks are the most common source of added sugar for kids and adults​. These drinks contribute almost half the added sugar in daily diets. But sugar creeps into other foods, too, like ice cream, cakes, cookies, granola bars and other snacks and treats. Often without realizing it, you can start your day with a bowlful of sugar just by eating a sweetened cereal for breakfast.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children and adults limit their added sugar to less than 10 percent of their daily calories. For an adult eating 2,000 calories a day, that would mean limiting daily sugar to 12 or fewer teaspoons a day. For little children eating smaller meals, that could mean limiting daily sugar to 6 or fewer teaspoons a day. A bowl of some types of cereals can get little children close to that recommended limit.

In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated the Nutrition Facts label to help families spot the added sugar. Now, the label lists grams of added sugars on a separate line under “Total Carbohydrate.” This helps families look at foods and drinks and figure out how much sugar comes from natural sources, like fruit, and how much comes from white sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners that are added in the factory. 

Some cereals contain mostly added sugar, while others are a mix of natural and added sugar. A good example is raisin bran. Natural sugars in this type of cereal come from the raisins. Added sugars are from other sweeteners, like syrups. Turn the cereal box around to find the updated Nutrition Facts label, and look for the line that says “Includes Added Sugars.” One serving of raisin bran can have more than 2 teaspoons of added sugar. 

Peck recommends that families choose cereals with 6 or fewer grams of added sugar per serving. That’s 1 ½ teaspoons of added sugar (1 teaspoon of sugar equals about 4 grams of sugar). Aim for cereals that also have at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. This includes unsweetened oatmeal and some cereals made with whole grains. Breakfast doesn’t have to be served in a bowl, however. Peck recommended these healthy options to start your family’s day: whole grain toast with peanut butter and slices of banana, a fruit smoothie with frozen berries and non-fat milk, or a scrambled egg and salsa in a whole-wheat tortilla.

Eating oatmeal delivers healthy whole grains, but watch out for packets with added sugar

Oatmeal can be a healthy breakfast cereal with whole grains and fiber if you make it from scratch and add fruit — like blueberries — instead of brown sugar or honey. Oatmeal from packets often have added sugar. A cinnamon and spice oatmeal packet, for example, can have almost 3 teaspoons of added sugar. Making instant oatmeal from a bulk container of plain oats can be just as quick and easy as making a packet of oatmeal, and it has no added sugar. 

Another type of whole grain cereal has low added sugar, but a variation of it comes sweetened with honey, giving it as much added sugar as some popular sweetened, colorful cereals. The same size bowls of this whole grain cereal sweetened with honey and the colorful cereal with marshmallows have the same amount of added sugar — 3 teaspoons of sugar in just a 1-cup serving. One cup of cereal doesn’t look like a lot in a bowl. Some people likely eat more during a breakfast, which means even more added sugar. 

Look out for labels that suggest a breakfast cereal is healthier than it is

The cereal box is meant to catch your children’s eye. They’re covered in bright colors and can feature cartoon characters. They’re meant to catch parents’ eyes, too, featuring words that suggest sweetened cereals are good for their families: whole grains, packed with essential vitamins and minerals, even organic.

Organic cereals, however, don’t always mean low in sugar. One organic, cinnamon-flavored cereal has almost 3 teaspoons of added sugar per serving.  Organic cane sugar, brown rice syrup and honey are added sugars, just like white sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Sugary foods, just like sugary drinks, often have labels that make them seem healthier than they are. A sugary drink label, for example, may focus on the drink having 100% Vitamin C, but not mention the added sugar. Cereal labels may focus on the fiber and not the multiple teaspoons of sugar in each serving. 

Give labels a closer look when they name or show a fruit. The front of a sugary drink and cereal box can have a fruit in the name or show a picture of a fruit, even though they contain no fruit at all. 

Eating sweet cereals and pastries can lead to as much added sugar as treats and candy

When it comes to added sugar, starting the day with a sweetened cereal is similar to starting the day with a bowl of candy. One bowl with a couple servings of a sweet cereal can have as much added sugar as a chocolate bar. A serving of the colorful cereal with marshmallows has about as much added sugar as three powdered mini doughnuts. 

Look out for a lot of added sugar in breakfast pastries. A frosted fruit-flavored pastry, for example, listed a type of sugar four times in the first six ingredients — well before you saw a mention of a fruit. One pastry has about as much added sugar as a bag of chocolate candies you’d find in a grocery store checkout line. 

Visit this Play Every Day website to help you figure out how much sugar is hiding in your foods and drinks. 


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9/8/2020 8:06 AM

​SEPTEMBER 8, 2020  You’ve been watching your child copy your every move. You make dinner and your toddler starts playing with his toy pots and pans. You read a book and your preschooler starts flipping through the pictures in hers.

So if you reach for a soda or a sports drink, what is your child going to want?

Play Every Day’s new message ​gives a healthy twist to this copycat behavior. Your child wants what you’re eating and drinking. So if you choose a bottle of water instead of a bottle of a vitamin drink, your child will be more likely to want that healthy option, too.

“Being a role model is the best way to teach children,” said Diane Peck, registered dietitian with Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program. “If parents want their children to drink water instead of sugary drinks, then parents need to enjoy drinking water, too. Healthy habits in children start with healthy habits in their parents.”

Daddy Can I-9211 web.jpgChildren learn by watching parents

Play Every Day has been focusing its recent messages on keeping families healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The blog published last week discussed what physical education teachers are doing to help children stay active, whether they’re learning online, in person or with a mix of both. The campaign is also talking about other ways to help children grow up healthy. One way is to cut back on serving sugary drinks that can lead to cavities, unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other health concerns. 

Earlier this summer, Play Every Day started sharing a new message that uses kids’ love of magic tricks to show much sugar is hiding in sweetened powdered drinks. This month, it will begin sharing a new, 30-second video and related online messages focused on helping children copy their parents in healthy ways.

“Children learn by watching everyone around them, especially their parents,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Daddy Can I-3652 HR.JPGThe new video features an Alaska family who chooses healthy drinks for their two young daughters under the age of 5. Both parents grew up in rural Alaska villages, but now they live in Anchorage. The family loves to fish together, and that became the opening scene for the video. In the first few seconds, you see the 4-year-old ready to copy her dad. “Can I go with you?” she asks, as he prepares his raft to launch along Portage Creek. “Can I help you?” she asks, as he fillets a salmon to grill for dinner. The video ends with the family sitting together in their camp chairs. The dad grabs a can of soda, and his daughter reaches for it: “Daddy, can I please have some?”
Daddy Can I-3652 HR.JPG

That’s where the video reverses the scene. The dad grabs a water bottle instead. When his daughter reaches up for a sip this time, she drinks a healthy option — and so does her dad. 

Choosing healthy drinks and staying active improves health year-round

Sugary drinks are the most common source of added sugars each day. That includes powdered and fruit-flavored drinks; sports, energy and vitamins drinks; soda; and sweetened coffees and teas. Another common sugar-added drink for little kids is chocolate and flavored milk. 

Last year, four leading health organizations published new “Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids” guidelines that say sugary drinks are not recommended for children ages 5 and younger. Limiting added sugar each day is good for the health of older children and adults, too. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar older children and adults eat and drink to less than 10 percent of their daily calories. 

“Supporting families with options for daily activity and good nutrition can help them stay at a healthy weight and prevent serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Ann Potempa, Play Every Day coordinator. “Having just one of these health problems — obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure — can make it three times more likely that you’d need to go to the hospital if you’re sick with COVID-19. It’s important to try to prevent getting COVID-19, but it’s also essential to stay in the best possible health all year-round to help your body fight the virus if you do get it.”

Sharing messages with families across Alaska

Play Every Day staff run the educational campaign through the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. This summer, they partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Chugach National Forest to create this message. All scenes take place near Portage Creek on National Forest land. Sharing this important message through the partnership will help reach all areas of Alaska to ensure kids stay healthy. 

Schools, health clinics and organizations can share these and other Play Every Day messages by downloading free versions on the campaign’s webpages for physical activity and sugary drinks resources. Similar messages are posted on Facebook and Instagram. Please email playeveryday@alaska.gov​ to learn more about ways to share materials about helping Alaska children choose healthy drinks and get daily physical activity for the best health.


collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-08</hide>August 2020 ‎(2)
  
8/26/2020 1:44 PM

​AUGUST 26, 2020 — It was the first day back for Goose Bay Elementary School in Wasilla. Nancy Blake was excited. Kids were headed to her class, but they walked right past the gym. They didn’t put on their special gym shoes, either.

NancyBlake_PaintedField_GooseBayElementary_August2020.pngInstead, they walked outside in waterproof shoes, which is an unusual back-to-school item this year given the new focus on outdoor activities. They headed to their colored marking on the soccer field — red, yellow, blue or green. If they looked closely, they’d notice the newly painted field looked like the indoor gym space, just larger and outdoors. That was Blake’s plan when she bought a bunch of paint cans and went to work. This year, each child will get 16 feet by 12 feet of fresh air around them. That’s the whole point. 

Schools across Alaska are finding ways to keep providing physical education (PE) class during a pandemic that has forced many changes to learning. Teachers are building lesson plans around physical distance, smaller cohorts, face coverings, online learning programs and more. Elementary-age kids in Wasilla and the rest of the Mat-Su Borough School District have started in person, but with many modifications. Blake’s modification is to hold PE class outside whenever possible, even in chilly temperatures down to 10 degrees below zero. 

Thousands of children in some Alaska school districts are starting online instead, given higher levels of virus spreading in their communities. That’s why you found Ben Elbow connecting to Zoom at 8:30 a.m. this Monday morning. Elementary school is all online through the Anchorage School District (ASD), and PE teachers like Elbow have differing roles from school to school. Elbow is supporting a few classroom teachers at Rogers Park Elementary, but he’s also offering unique opportunities to keep kids moving. 

Elbow_Plank_August2020.pngRogers Park kids are used to Elbow’s creativity. Ask any of them how to play Mr. Elbow Tag and they’ll get right to it. This year, he’s offering daily 30-minute Zoom PE classes. As a bonus, he’s starting their day with “Wake Up with Mr. Elbow.” For 30 minutes, he’ll lead Rogers Park families in activities. It’s meant for kids, but parents can join, too. He wants to build community, but he also wants parents to see this as something else if needed: This 30-minute session could give kids the activity they need, and at the same time help parents make breakfast, work or take on other tasks they’re juggling from home.  

“What I’m also trying to do is help parents out,” said Elbow, a parent of two young children. 

Keeping physical education and activity as priorities during a pandemic

Starting a school year during a pandemic means tough choices for everyone, from the school district administrators who need to plan for every possible scenario to parents weighing the new academic options in front of them. Each subject area is critical for well-rounded learning, but they’re all competing for priority with shorter school days in some districts and more limited class schedules. 

While physical education is not always called a core subject area, teachers and district staff across Alaska see strong reasons to keep it included in the daily schedules for elementary-age kids, even when all learning is online. SHAPE America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, issued guidance to keep PE and health as part of a complete education during the pandemic and a way to help children meet the national recommendation of 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity — regardless of learning in-person, online or both.

Some families learning from home have the time and resources to add in daily activity. Kayla Clark, PE teacher in Fairbanks, said other families don’t. For these families, the PE teacher could be the sole person providing activity for the child. 

School districts across Alaska have PE teachers who are trained to teach children the skills of movement. Blake said she hopes districts will keep using those teachers to focus on that specialty, improving kids’ skills and keeping them active. Blake has gone online to learn from other PE teachers across the country. Jana DePriest, instructional coordinator for the Mat-Su Borough School District, said other Mat-Su PE teachers also did a lot of research to prepare this fall, and they’ve come with great ideas. 

“As a profession, we’re up to this challenge,” said Blake, starting her 29th year of teaching. “It’s exciting to see.” 

Anchorage PE teachers spent the summer recording online videos that focus on PE skills, which they then embedded into active slideshows, said Melanie Sutton, ASD’s Health and Physical Education Curriculum Coordinator. The slide shows, she said, were created by experts — the district’s trained PE teachers.

PE teachers say continuing to move is more important than ever now, given that time in front of a computer has gone up for everyone. Being active is critical to staying physically healthy. Activity also revs up the mind, Blake said. It helps kids focus when get they back to class, or when they get back to the desk or kitchen table at home. 

“You handle stress better,” Blake said. “You can lessen anxiety.”

Providing in-person PE when that’s possible

Blake works in a district that can start teaching PE in person. The guidance in Mat-Su right now is to take PE outside when possible and to teach activities that can be done with distance, not contact, DePriest said. Blake said she can make these changes and still help kids have fun and meet goals.

Last year, Blake applied for a grant and purchased 30 bicycles that can be used to teach balance first and then pedaling. This year, Blake’s goal is to teach 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds how to ride a bike. When winter comes, she’ll introduce snowshoes.

“I want them to have fun and move,” Blake said. “I want them out, out, out every day. We live in Alaska. We’ve got to learn how to do that.”

The SHAPE America guidance recommends ways to support PE during the pandemic. Students should be allowed to wash their hands before and after PE class. Students and staff should be given hand sanitizer. SHAPE recommends that smaller cohorts of students engage in activity, and they should be active outside as much as possible. Water fountains should be turned off or regularly sanitized, and children should be encouraged to use their own water bottles. Teachers should use grids that mark boundaries and spacing, much like Blake created on the soccer field at Goose Bay Elementary. 

Another best practice is to regularly clean equipment and high-touch surfaces. Blake is following that recommendation for bike-riding lessons. She said she plans to clean and disinfect the handlebars, seats and helmets after each use.

Providing PE online when facing higher risk levels

Districts like ASD and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District are offering physical education remotely, at least for the beginning of the school year. Just like in-person PE, online-only PE will look different district by district, school by school.

ASD is providing options so that PE is consistently available for elementary students when it works best for the family to do it, Sutton said. Kids signed up for the blended school model will have access to these pre-recorded lessons focused on teaching PE skills. In these slideshows, ASD PE teachers demonstrate the skills from their homes or backyards. Kids can follow along whenever it works best for them. They can watch the slideshows over and over to improve their skills, Sutton said. Students even get to learn from PE teachers at other ASD schools, given that all of the district’s slideshows will be made available online.

Sutton said an ASD PE teacher took her daughter’s stuffed toys and arranged them during a slideshow. She then showed how she could navigate her way through the maze of toys. This type of movement is reality for many children learning and moving at home right now, Sutton said.

 “We are teaching from where we are to where you are — using what we have available and what you have available — because we didn’t bring our gymnasiums home either,” she said. 

Clark, who teaches PE at Woodriver Elementary in Fairbanks, also recorded skills-focused videos that kids can do at home​. Through these videos, she teaches children how to strike a ball with a racket and juggle objects like grocery bags. When schools in Fairbanks start online this year, Clark said she plans to incorporate challenges to help students track their at-home activities, like running. 

Districts offer differing amounts of PE each week

Even with all of these opportunities, the total amount of weekly PE minutes available to children may differ this school year compared to past years. All Mat-Su schools started in low- or medium-risk and are offering school days that are just as long as they were last year, DePriest said. Blake said that allows her to teach about as much PE time this year as last year. 

Clark, in Fairbanks, said her school is offering a shorter day this year, like many schools across the state. Last year, she offered two PE sessions per week per classroom. This year, each classroom will get only one 30-minute session per week for each specialized subject, like PE and music, she said. If students come back to the classroom, recess will not be offered, but classroom teachers may take their students outside for movement breaks, Clark said. 

The Petersburg School District in Southeast Alaska is starting its year with elementary students splitting the day into smaller cohorts that come to school in the morning or afternoon. They’ve hired additional classroom teachers to keep the cohorts smaller, said Ginger Evens, a teacher who coordinates Petersburg’s wellness grant. Elementary-age students will not receive any PE, music or art during the first month of school, but teachers are encouraged to get children outside when possible. They’ll also have 20 minutes of recess each day, offered in different areas outside the school to keep groups small. As the school year starts, the district is focused on integrating all subjects, but the focus is on reading, writing and math, Evens said. Some parents have shared concerns with the school board, saying they want kids to have PE during the school day. In an abundance of caution, the district is starting slowly and will revisit the decision and the risk level in Petersburg at the end of September, Evens said.

Connecting with kids through physical education

PE teachers have so many ideas they’re trying this year to keep kids moving. Some teachers, like Elbow, are offering additional live PE sessions when they’re teaching only online. Recording PE videos is necessary and important for learning, but so is building connections.

“That’s what we all miss,” Elbow said. 

One of the best things he can offer during online learning, he said, is a teacher who’s live and in front of his students, even if that’s only through a computer camera. 

Elbow_ThumbsUp_August2020.png“Teachers must make more of a concerted effort to connect when in a distance learning environment,” the SHAPE guidance states. “Students need to feel like part of their school community and that they are cared for in order to learn.” 

This school year will be filled with hiccups and hurdles, as no one knows what risk level their community will be in next quarter or how their children will be learning months from now. PE teachers have ideas to keep kids moving, no matter what. By the last day of this challenging school year, Blake wants Goose Bay children to feel confident and strong. She wants students to believe they can try any activity and do it, and then challenge themselves to try and do the next thing. 

“I would hope that I was able to make them know that I cared about them,” Elbow said, “and that I helped them find moments of joy while being active.”

  
8/19/2020 2:11 PM

​AUGUST 19, 2020 — Elementary schools are starting this fall in all kinds of ways. Some schools are starting online, while others are starting in person. Some school districts are providing options to families, including in-person and all-virtual learning. 

When students are not in school, they miss opportunities for daily movement that recess and in-person physical education class provide. Daily activity is so important for kids. It gets their hearts pumping and their legs moving, but it also relieves stress and anxiety. It helps them feel good in all kinds of ways. 

HealthyFuturesLogo.pngThe Healthy Futures program knows that, which is why the staff of the small nonprofit organization plans to keep offering its physical activity challenge this school year. It will start Sept. 1. The free challenge may need to look different in each school district, or even at different schools within a district, and that’s OK. Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director, said the physical activity challenge can offer a small amount of consistency for kids during an unusual time. Thousands of Alaska kids know about the Healthy Futures Challenge​, and many do it every school year and earn prizes for building the habit of staying active. If participating schools decide that want to keep giving children a simple tool to help them stay active — whether they’re learning in school or out of school — Robinson said his program is ready to help, just like every other school year. 

“We know this year is going to be tough for all of us,” Robinson said. “We want to offer something that’s helpful, in whatever way that works best for schools and students. We’ve made several different versions of the log this year to help students track their activity, no matter what technology they have at home. On one version of the log, we’ve added new elements to track other healthy behaviors — like choosing healthy foods and drinks and getting enough sleep each night. If teachers want to add these logs as one way to keep students moving and thinking about how to keep their bodies strong and healthy this year, we want to provide that.”

Elementary schools can still sign up for the Fall Challenge

This year, about 70 elementary schools have signed up for the Healthy Futures Challenge so far. Healthy Futures, a longtime partner of the Play Every Day campaign, is able to sign up more. Teachers or principals at Alaska elementary schools can sign up at https://database.healthyfuturesak.org/, or they can contact Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org or (907) 240-3684. 

Robinson knows there are questions that need answers:

  • How do you run a school-based physical activity challenge when students aren’t learning in school, or they’re in school only part time? We’ve got an answer for that below. 
  • How do students turn in logs if they’re not going into a school building? Find that answer below, too. 
  • How will schools and students receive the prizes, especially if students aren’t at school? We’re still working on that issue.

Let’s take these questions one at a time.

Schools can make the challenge work for them

In a typical year, thousands of Alaska students complete the Healthy Futures Challenge in more than 30 school districts across the state. They track their activity each month on a simple paper log. If they count at least 15 days when they were active at least 60 minutes each day, they can turn in the log for a prize. Students can include active time in recess and gym class on their logs. 

This year, thousands of students won’t be in school to turn in logs. They also may not have daily recess or in-person PE class time to count toward their logs. Last spring, some PE teachers provided online gym class, and that could be an option for students to count toward their logs this school year. Students also can count activities they do with their family, like walking, hiking, playing basketball or soccer, going for a bike ride or ski, and much more. 

Some schools may choose to offer the challenge as part of the physical education curriculum. Other schools may offer the challenge as a way to keep students inspired to move every day, in whatever ways they can. More families are choosing homeschool options this year, and homeschool programs are invited to participate in the challenge. 

More options this year for activity logs

Healthy Futures Alternative Log 8.5x11 .jpgThis year, Play Every Day and Healthy Futures staff worked together to add an alternative version of the log to help students track other important healthy behaviors. Participating teachers can choose to keep using the traditional log or this alternative log​. On the alternative log, students will still write what activity they did and the total number of minutes they were active. This record of daily activity will be used to determine if students successfully completed the log each month. 

The alternative log also includes three images at the bottom of each day: an apple, a moon and a glass of water. Each image represents a healthy behavior. If students ate at least 5 servings of fruits or vegetables that day, they can circle the apple. If they slept for 9 or more hours the night before, they can circle the moon. If students didn’t drink any sugary beverages that day, they can circle the glass of water. Sugary drinks include soda, sports and energy drinks, vitamin drinks, fruit-flavored and sweetened powdered drinks, and chocolate and flavored milk. 

When it comes to turning in a successful log, students will have several options: 

  • Print and fill out a log created as a Word document. Students can submit this log in person if attending school, or can take a photo of it and send the photo through email to the coordinating teacher at their school. 
  • Print or fill out a log created as a PDF document. Again, students can submit it in person or take a photo of it and submit it electronically. 
  • Download a log created as a fillable PDF document. Students can type in their activity and total number of active minutes each day. If using the fillable alternative log​, they can click their cursor over the apple, moon, or glass, which places a checkmark over the image. 

Recognizing students with prizes

When schools closed last spring, Healthy Futures staff faced challenges distributing prizes to children. That same challenge will continue this fall as some districts aren’t returning in person. Robinson said his team is looking for solutions. He said he will be reaching out to teachers coordinating the Healthy Futures program this fall to find out what works best for their school and students. 

To find out more about the Healthy Futures Challenge or to sign up your school or homeschool program, contact Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org or (907) 240-3684. 


​​​
collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-07</hide>July 2020 ‎(3)
  
7/20/2020 11:44 AM

​JULY 20, 2020  You know how kids make a large amount of sugar disappear, in just a few seconds? 

They drink it. 

Play Every Day has been focusing its recent messages on keeping families healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue. The campaign, however, is discussing other ways to help children grow up healthy. One way is to cut back on serving sugary drinks that can lead to cavities, unhealthy weight gain, type 2 diabetes and other health concerns.

“Choosing healthy drinks and being active can help prevent the diseases that increase the chances of severe illness from COVID-19,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition Program that runs Play Every Day. “It’s never too late to start serving kids healthier options, like water or milk.”

No magic necessary: Kids can make sugar disappear by drinking it

PlayEveryDay_MagicShowX2_Tada.pngPlay Every Day’s newest message uses kids’ love of magic tricks to show how much sugar is hiding in drinks. The 30-second video opens with a little boy dressed in a magician’s costume. He’s standing in front of 6 teaspoons of sugar. He tells his dad: “I can make all this sugar disappear.” His dad smiles and says: “Show me.” The boy covers the teaspoons with his magician’s hat and then pulls the hat away, showing that the large amount of sugar is now in an 8-ounce glass of a sweetened powdered drink. The boy quickly drinks the orange-flavored beverage, making all that added sugar disappear in just a few gulps.

The message states that these drinks are often labeled in ways to make them seem healthy. The front of the label might say “100% Vitamin C,” or show a picture of a fruit. That drink, however, may not be made with any fruit and can contain more sugar than your child should have in one day. 

The small glass of a powdered drink pictured in this new message can have about 6 teaspoons of added sugar. A small cranberry raspberry-flavored drink, like the one featured in last year’s Play Every Day video, can have 8 teaspoons of added sugar. That’s the same amount of sugar found in eight chocolate mini doughnuts. 

Sugary drinks remain the leading source of added sugars, for kids and adults

Sugary drinks are the most common source of added sugars each day, for kids and for adults. That includes powdered and fruit-flavored drinks; sports, energy and vitamins drinks; soda; and sweetened coffees and teas. Another common sugar-added drink for little kids is chocolate and flavored milk. 

Last year, four leading health organizations worked together to share a new report called “Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids.” These groups agree: Sugary drinks of all kinds are not recommended for children ages 5 and younger. Limiting added sugar each day is good for the health of older children and adults, too. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar older children and adults eat and drink to less than 10 percent of their daily calories. Even small fruit drinks can be packed with that much sugar, even more.

Play Every Day’s new magic-focused message shows a dad reading the front and back of the drink’s label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires the Nutrition Facts labels to clearly list the added sugar on a special line under “Total Carbohydrate.” The powdered drink featured in Play Every Day’s message, for example, has 22 grams of added sugar in an 8-ounce glass. For this example, 22 grams of sugar is about 6 teaspoons — the amount the little boy displays in the first scene of the video.

Play Every Day continues to update its messages​ to encourage families to serve healthier drinks to children from the very beginning: 

  • Birth to 1 year — Choose breast milk or iron-fortified formula only.
  • 1 – 2 years old — Serve water and pasteurized whole white milk.
  • 2 – 6 years old — Serve water and pasteurized fat-free (skim or nonfat) or low-fat (1%) white milk.

The campaign’s new message ends with a flip of the magician’s cape, revealing a full glass of water.

“There’s no illusion about this healthy drink,” the message says. “It’s just water, and it’s what kids need.”

200605 Play Every Day Magic Show-6557 web.jpg



​​
  
7/15/2020 4:34 PM

​JULY 15, 2020 — School districts are working on plans to reopen schools this fall for Alaska’s 130,000 students and thousands of staff after closing in March for the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on the level of virus spreading in the community, those plans include in-school instruction with physical distancing, distance learning from home, or often a hybrid model combining the two. 

As schools use Alaska’s Smart Start 2020 Framework to create these new models for learning, finding different ways to support students’ and staff’s physical, mental, and social-emotional health is more important than ever. Participating in physical activities can improve all of these types of health.

DSC_3057.jpg“Physical activity and education are essential for the health and well-being of Alaska students,” said Rochelle Lindley, public information officer for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. “However, physical activity and education may look different during a pandemic. Through the Alaska Smart Start 2020 guidance, school districts will be responsible for developing plans for physical education and activity in low-, medium-, and high-risk environments.”

Planning the 2020-21 school year during a pandemic is a significant challenge for these school districts. Schools are figuring out how to be a place where teachers and staff feel supported as they go back to work, and where parents feel secure sending their kids into a group setting. Many questions need answers, and one of those questions is how to offer students physical activity, physical education (PE) class and recess in different scenarios that could vary during the year, depending on the spread of virus in the community served by the district.  

How do teachers provide time for activity with shorter school days that are proposed in some Alaska school districts? If kids are in school, what physical activities are easier — or harder — to offer when it’s so important to avoid close contact with others? How will the Healthy Futures program provide its free physical activity challenge in more than 100 elementary schools across the state? And if we enter a high-risk period, what will school-supported physical activity look like when kids are learning only from home? Many of these questions don’t have complete answers yet. Play Every Day will be exploring them in more depth as we approach and start the new school year. 

Active students learn better

These questions are important to answer because physically active students can focus more, think more clearly, react to stress more calmly, and perform and behave better in class. All of these positive outcomes of activity are shared in a review of research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national recommendation for school-age children has been at least 60 minutes of daily activity for the best health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans emphasize that regular activity has benefits beyond physical health. It also can decrease the risk of depression, reduce anxiety and improve sleep. Even if time at school is limited, using some of it for physical activity could help the rest of the seated instructional time be more efficient.  

“Will we get to go back to recess?”

One of the common questions parents are asking about school is whether recess will be on or off in the fall. With the proposed shortened schedule, there won’t be enough time for all the usual subjects and activities. Not only is recess a kid-favorite, it helps students practice social skills such as following rules, cooperating, problem-solving, negotiating and communicating. Recess can give kids and staff a chance to spend time outside and have in-person social connections — something many have been missing during recent months — while maintaining appropriate physical distance. Each district will make its own decision in the weeks and months to come. Dr. Mark Stock, Deputy Superintendent at the Anchorage School District, shared his support for including recess and outdoor time in school schedules this fall.   

“ASD recognizes the importance of recess and the opportunities it provides to get fresh air and exercise every day,” Stock said. “It is more important than ever in these days of ‘hunker down’ and social distancing brought upon us due to the pandemic."

“While plans and schedules are still being finalized, daily recess and exercise outdoors will remain an important part of the school day, even with a shortened schedule. In fact, being outdoors will be encouraged for all classrooms even beyond recess. We encourage teachers to provide opportunities to teach outside in the fresh air as a great alternative to the four walls of the classroom.”

Tools to help schools plan during the pandemic

The CDC provides guidance in a series of Considerations for Schools documents to support schools during the pandemic. This includes the K-12 Schools Readiness and Planning Tool, a practical way to monitor and maintain necessary actions to promote healthy behaviors, environments and procedures that reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.   

SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators) recently released the 2020-2021 School Reentry Considerations: K-12 Physical Education, Health Education, and Physical Activity with specific recommendations for recess, including:

  • Have students and staff wash or sanitize hands before and after recess. Use CDC downloadable resources on handwashing as visual cues and reminders. 
  • Identify multiple areas where recess can be held for different cohorts of students to minimize crowding. Whenever possible, use outdoor spaces for recess. 
  • Develop a plan for moving students from the classroom to the designated recess areas. Give students guidance on how to safely move between areas while still maintaining physical distance from others. Plan time to practice these transitions with students.
  • Limit or eliminate the use of playground equipment or play structures. If playground equipment is used, it requires normal, routine cleaning. Targeted disinfection may be appropriate for high-touch surfaces like railings. Consult CDC guidance on playground and recess play equipment sanitation procedures.
  • Use painted play spaces or create play areas with stencils or cones to designate zones to help students identify how to safely follow physical distancing guidelines and to provide sufficient opportunities for free choice of activities during recess.

Local groups in Alaska are exploring more ways to support physical activity in schools this fall. SHAPE Alaska is looking at how to develop trainings to support physical education teachers across the state, and the Alaska School Activities Association recently released guidance about sports-related practices and events. The association’s executive director talked about this guidance on a statewide webinar earlier this week

The state Departments of Education and Early Development and Health and Social Services, along with other partners, will start a webinar series to address questions about reopening schools.  Weekly sessions for superintendents, principals and school health leaders will begin July 21. To learn more and register, visit https://echo.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAvduqorTgqGdIldKANttMHl-el85qrH_s0. The Alaska Smart Start Summer Virtual Summit 2020 will begin in August for teachers, parents, district staff, tribal leaders, community members and more. To learn more and register, visit aklearns.org/smartwebinar/.

The Play Every Day campaign will continue to share information about physical activity, recess and physical education during the pandemic as more details become available. Please contact playeveryday@alaska.gov to share how your school district is working to support the health and activity of Alaska students.    

Additional resources 

For additional information, please go to:  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development 

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services 


  
7/1/2020 7:39 AM

​JULY 1, 2020 — After months of closing or being too snow-covered to use, playgrounds at schools and public parks reopened in most communities for the summer. Families are definitely returning to play. 

“During this pandemic, our outdoor spaces have become more valuable than ever,” said Josh Durand, director of Anchorage Parks and Recreation. “These are opportunities to have some reprieve. Outdoor experiences can wash away some of the stress in life. This is good for children and parents alike.”

Even though the yellow caution tape came down from playgrounds in Anchorage and elsewhere, it’s still important for families to be careful when bringing their children to swing, slide or climb. Gathering close to others can increase the chances of spreading COVID-19 from person to person. That includes kids playing and yelling near each other, as well as parents from different households hanging out together as they watch.

“Parents standing next to each other chitchatting are also at risk,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer.

Parks departments across Alaska are putting in extra time to clean playgrounds. Even so, you can help set expectations for your family to prevent the spread of illness. Show up with your own hand sanitizer and tell your kids that they’ll be using it before and after playing. Bring face coverings for everyone, and put them on before coming within 6 feet of others. That includes you, too, Mom and Dad. Let your children know that they can have fun playing with people in their household or small social bubble, but they’ll need to keep away from other children. And yes, that will feel strange to children who just want to play together. 

“It’s challenging because kids don’t really participate in social distancing,” Zink said. “They need to interact. That’s who they are.”

You can’t remove all of the risk of spreading illness at playgrounds, but you can definitely minimize it, Zink said. When planning a playground visit, put together a small play group that is your new social bubble. Then, always go with them to the playground and only play with that group, she said. Choose to visit playgrounds when they’re least crowded. Zink also suggested trying something new. One family had playground equipment in their backyard and decided to invite a few other families who could use it, one at a time. That way, the kids in each family could enjoy time at the playground without risking interaction with other kids.

Paula Wright biking family Safe Playgrounds Blog.jpgZink acknowledged it’s hard to clean everything you might touch at a playground. That’s why some parents, like Paula Wright of Anchorage, have decided not to return to them right now. 

“I just think it’s impossible with so many kids to keep the surfaces clean,” said Wright, a mother of two young boys. It’s also hard to keep your distance from others while there. 

“To me, it’s a big challenge that we can easily avoid by going other places.”

Zink also encouraged considering options other than playgrounds: Explore the woods. Go for a hike in our wide open spaces. Wright’s family built a swing in the backyard. They’ve been hiking and biking on trails, gone camping more than usual, and looked for big fields where the boys could run. 

“We live in the coolest playground in the entire world,” Zink said. 

Below are related Questions and Answers about using playgrounds during the pandemic.

What are the important reminders for preventing the spread of COVID-19 at parks and playgrounds?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hanging posters and signs in parks and playgrounds to share these reminders:

  • Wear face coverings when possible. They’re most important when you or your children might get within 6 feet of others. Face coverings shouldn’t be worn by children younger than 2 and anyone who has trouble breathing. 
  • Stay home if you are sick or do not feel well.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw out tissues in the trash. 
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. 
    • If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub hands together until dry. Young children should be supervised to ensure they are using sanitizer safely.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

How are Alaska parks departments cleaning playgrounds during the pandemic? 

Parks departments across the state are busy cleaning and hanging COVID-19 signs in playgrounds this summer. The Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks and Recreation Department is following the CDC guidelines for parks, which call for routine cleaning in outdoor areas instead of disinfecting all surfaces, said David Jones, the parks maintenance manager.

 “Spraying disinfectant on sidewalks and in parks is not an efficient use of disinfectant supplies and has not been proven to reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public,” the CDC stated. “You should continue existing cleaning and hygiene practices for outdoor areas.”

For the Fairbanks staff, that means starting their work days early each morning, seven days a week, by visiting playgrounds before the kids arrive. The parks department maintains about 30 properties in Fairbanks, and 19 of them have playground equipment, Jones said. The staff visits as many as possible daily, cleaning with soap and water and with diluted bleach on some surfaces, he said. Some parks have restrooms, and the Fairbanks parks department cleans those twice a day. Keeping up with that schedule has been challenging because the department is understaffed right now, Jones said. That’s because the department couldn’t recruit seasonal staff when the pandemic began this spring. They’ve tried to maximize what they can routinely clean by temporarily removing some items and storing them for later. 

“I pulled a lot of benches and picnic tables to reduce the amount of surfaces you clean,” Jones said.

Durand in Anchorage oversees a large group of properties: 224 parks with 82 playgrounds. Before parks reopened in early May, his staff power washed each playground. He said it’s not possible for his staff to clean each playground daily, so they are cleaning them as needed. They plan to power wash several times this year with a disinfecting solution. The Anchorage staff also added hand sanitizer this summer to each porta potty in parks and playgrounds, Durand said.

What kind of cleaning supplies should families use before, during and after visiting playgrounds?

Parks department staff are routinely cleaning playgrounds, but as Jones pointed out, they can’t control how clean playgrounds remain throughout the day. Families should bring hand wipes and sanitizer, and make sure everyone uses it before and after playing. They could use soap or water instead, but often those are found in public restrooms and Zink recommends not using those restrooms if possible given all of the high-touch surfaces that need regular cleaning. Consider bringing disinfecting wipes to clean surfaces you’d touch, sit on, or eat on — like swings, picnic tables and benches. 

Should children and parents wear face coverings while at playgrounds?

You often don’t see children and parents wearing face coverings at playgrounds right now, but Zink recommends that they do so when it’s not just their family playing there. At playgrounds, children tend to get close together on equipment. Parents tend to gather and talk. Playing closely and gathering decreases the distance between people, which can increase the chances of spreading illness. Keeping that distance is important, but so is wearing face coverings when you are talking or playing closer than 6 feet away from others. 

Paula Wright son mask Safe Playgrounds Blog.jpg

Visit the COVID-19 in Alaska​ website for updated information for the state.

Photographs courtesy of Paula Wright


collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-06</hide>June 2020 ‎(3)
  
6/25/2020 7:49 AM

FaceCovering2020 photo.PNGJUNE 25, 2020  These blogs usually start with someone’s story. For many years, my job has been listening to Alaskans and then sharing their experiences, most recently through these blogs.  

Today is different because it’s my story. 

My name is Ann Potempa, and I’ve run the Play Every Day campaign since it launched in 2012. My oldest son and I got tested for COVID-19 this month and waited a longer-than-expected amount of time for our test results — almost a full week. Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, asked me to write about our experience. 

“There is a lot of variability in the wait time,” Zink said. “I think the variability in it can be very challenging.”

The challenge comes in having to limit your family’s or household’s activities until your results come back. We received a piece of paper with this guidance after leaving the testing location: “You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.” Staying away from others while you wait for results prevents the spread of possible infection.

The state’s health department and laboratories are improving how they work together to complete COVID-19 tests, hiring staff and quickening the sharing of results from lab to provider to patient to minimize the wait when possible — ideally closer to three days from test to result. Zink said they’re trying many strategies to make it easier to get tested and to get results quicker. She also said Alaskans can call providers and urgent care centers in some communities to find rapid tests that can turn around results in less than an hour. 

For many people like me who got non-rapid tests, however, the results take more time to process and return. I’m sharing our testing experience to show how, and why.

Testing and staying away from others while waiting for results

Typically, Play Every Day is focused on promoting daily activity and healthy drinks for Alaska children. We believe it’s important to pivot right now and talk with families about COVID-19 and other broader issues that affect children’s health: How can they keep active while preventing the spread of illness? If they develop symptoms, should they test, and what can they expect in terms of receiving those results?

This month, my 14-year-old son and I had minor symptoms that in other years would have seemed like nothing special: chills, body aches, slightly higher-than-normal temperatures. At this time in Alaska, the recommendation is to test even minor symptoms. So we did that Tuesday, June 9. Then we waited. 

As the days passed without results, I began to wonder why. This led me to work with Alaska’s health leaders to make sure Alaskans were given realistic turnaround times for COVID-19 tests. I find it’s easier to muster the patience to wait if I know how long it could take, and if I know why I am waiting. 

Waiting is frustrating, even for people like me who work in public health and focus on this pandemic every day. It’s surprising how much we needed to cancel while we stayed away from others and waited for results. Our family canceled activities for everyone, unsure if the others who weren’t tested could be sick and just not symptomatic. We rescheduled three haircuts, which meant the stylist lost business that week. Our home improvement contractors lost work because we didn’t want to put them at risk of infection by being in our house. My son gave up his appointment to test for a driver’s permit, which felt like a big deal for a teenager. Both my sons lost a week at an outside summer camp that had made significant changes to prevent spreading COVID-19. My youngest son was crushed, because he lost out the most — given he wasn’t even the one who had symptoms.

A week earlier, Pegge Erkeneff of Kasilof had a similar experience. After having mild symptoms, she visited the Kenai Public Health Center on Wednesday, June 3, to get tested. 

“You now need to consider yourself positive until you hear from us,” the nurse told her. That meant staying away from other people until she got her result.

On the drive home, she realized what she had to cancel: a Thursday appointment with the dog groomer and a Friday haircut for herself that she’d put off since February due to the pandemic. She even canceled using a pick-up service at the grocery store in the unlikely case that she’d get into an accident while driving to the store and unintentionally expose an emergency responder.

Waiting for results got harder as the days added up, she said. She didn’t get her negative result until five days after she got tested.

“There is the real frustration of waiting and patience, and then just letting go,” Erkeneff said. “This is just what life is like now. And I’m making a choice (to get tested) — for my own peace of mind and for others.”

It’s very important to stay away from others after testing to protect them in case you are infected, said Coleman Cutchins, Alaska’s lead clinical pharmacist who is overseeing the COVID-19 laboratory testing. Cutchins explained the testing process in Alaska, why there’s variability in turning around results, and what the state’s laboratories are doing to quicken that process when possible. 

Understanding why turnaround times can vary for results

The time it takes to turn around a COVID-19 test result depends on a number of factors: what kind of test was run, where the laboratory is located, the number of samples that came through that day or week to be processed, even whether or not the test is for someone who really needs to know quickly if they’re sick — such as someone in a nursing home who could face higher chances for serious illness. 

Many people getting COVID-19 tests in Alaska are getting what’s called a high extraction PCR test, Cutchins said. Never mind the complicated name. What it means is these tests require a multi-step chemical analysis in a laboratory to determine a positive or negative result. These are the standard tests used to detect viruses like COVID-19. 

If you get a COVID-19 PCR test done in Alaska, it could be run in labs inside the state or outside. As of mid June, there were three main laboratories in the state running tests: the two state public health labs in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and the Alaska Native Medical Center lab, Cutchins said. Some people’s samples — like my family’s — are shipped out of state to commercial labs to run. Our samples went to a lab in California. A number of factors, including health insurance, can affect where a sample is taken to analyze and return a result, Cutchins said. Shipping some samples gives the state more options in terms of running tests, but it can add to the turnaround time of getting results if you add the time to fly the sample out of state. That’s not always the case, though. Cutchins said some samples shipped out of state returned results in about two days. 

The number of tests done daily in Alaska is a very fluid number, Cutchins said, and can triple from one day to the next. Recently, the number of tests significantly increased as health and travel mandates required them for certain medical procedures and made them available to people arriving into airports. As of this week, almost 100,000 tests​ have been run for those in Alaska.

Comparing and contrasting rapid and non-rapid tests

A rapid test may be the right choice for an individual, but the wrong choice for other situations, such as a planeload of people. Cutchins uses a simple cup of coffee to explain the difference between running a PCR COVID-19 test at a lab and running a rapid test using a machine. If you only want one cup of coffee, you would use a machine that inserts one pod of grounds and returns a full cup of coffee. That’s like this rapid testing machine. It processes only one test at a time, but can turn around a result in 15 minutes to about an hour. 

If you have a large group of people needing coffee all at once, you wouldn’t buy 100 one-cup coffee machines. You’d call your local shop to brew a lot of coffee to serve everyone more quickly than a one-cup machine could do. That’s like the COVID-19 test run at a laboratory. A laboratory can run a large number of tests in a day, which means a longer turnaround time for the whole batch but a quicker turnaround time than you’d see if you ran each sample one at a time through machines. On a given day, that could mean running up to 3,000 tests through Alaska’s public health laboratories, Cutchins said.

A COVID-19 test starts with a health care provider inserting a swab into an individual’s nostril and collecting a sample of respiratory secretions, or instructing the individual to do the swabbing. For a sample that will be processed in a laboratory, the time between when the sample is taken and when it reaches a local lab could be hours. If it’s shipped outside Alaska, that lag could get longer by a day or so. Once at the lab, it can take about 12 hours to unpack the sample, prepare it in a sterile environment that doesn’t infect the laboratory workers, and run the test. At the end, a clinical biologist needs to interpret each result, one by one.

“It’s not like a pregnancy test,” Cutchins said. “It doesn’t give you a plus or a minus.”

He said it’s a lengthy process that you can’t make much faster given the current technology at labs. Other steps can add to that time, though, including entering results and transferring them back to the providers who ordered them, and ultimately to the person who got tested.

Rapid testing machines are available around the state, Cutchins said. For some of these machines, technicians insert the sample into the machine on site that can turn around a result in 15 minutes to an hour or so. These machines are particularly useful when there are small numbers of people who need testing and quick results are needed by health care providers, Cutchins said. Rapid tests do require more virus to be detected in the sample to return a positive result, he said.

A rapid test may be a good option for running a small number of tests, but it’s not the right tool for large flights, Cutchins said. An airplane full of people would quickly overwhelm a rapid testing system. Samples collected following the arrival of larger flights aren’t typically run in rapid machines. Instead, they’re sent in batches to larger laboratories to run using the longer process explained earlier, Cutchins said.

Improving Alaska’s lab capacity to turn around consistently quicker results

Cutchins said our family’s almost one-week turnaround time was longer than many experience. In the past week, though, he’s see turnaround times fluctuate overall — getting longer, shorter and then longer again. Many Alaskans, he said, can expect results in three to five days. His goal is to get most tests returned closer to three days for people in larger locations like Anchorage, the Mat-Su Borough and Fairbanks, and four to five days for samples that are shipped to a lab in another community to complete testing. Quicker turnarounds for results are important to reduce waiting time, to improve the chances that people stay away from others while waiting for results, and to quicken public health nurses’ ability to reach out to people who’ve been exposed to someone who tests positive. 

Cutchins said the health department is using several strategies to reduce turnaround times. He’s updating a plan that doesn’t rely too heavily on one laboratory. If one lab faces higher demands, another can step in. If shipping out of state becomes problematic, more testing can shift back to the state public health laboratories. 

His plan prioritizes shorter turnaround times for those most in need. State health officials will make the fastest testing strategies available for people who need results as quickly as possible, such as someone facing higher chances of serious illness or living in a higher-risk setting like a nursing home. Other hospitals in Alaska are also working to purchase more laboratory equipment to run tests locally, he said.

Cutchins shared other good news, including new technology recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that could triple testing capacity. He said this could be available in Alaska within the coming months. Alaska’s public health labs are also hiring more staff to process and run tests. They just got new software that makes it easier to enter a test result, share it with providers and ultimately the patient. All of these can help return a faster result, Cutchins said.

Making things better while you wait

Our family has stayed with the same pediatric clinic in Anchorage since both of our sons were born. One of the first people to meet my oldest son within hours of his birth was his pediatrician. 

She had been closely watching for our lab results day after day. The clinic’s nurses regularly checked in with the lab. They would talk to me multiple times daily to give updates, even when there was none. On Sunday morning, five days after my nasal swab, I learned my results were negative. My son’s results, however, weren’t back yet. On the sixth day following our tests, our pediatrician called me to talk through the waiting period, saying she would continually check until she got an answer for my son.

And she did. 

At 10:51 p.m. that night, she texted his results: 

Negative. 

Our pediatrician’s kindness during off hours was my reminder of how much people care for each other right now. It’s a reminder that while you worry and wait and focus on your frustrations, there are people trying to make things better. That is the case here. Rapid tests are available in some communities so Alaskans can get same-day results. Multiple laboratories are increasing staff, making it easier to enter and share test results, and working together to run more tests as quickly as possible and return those results to the health care providers who ordered them. 

Then, your doctor can give you the answer you’ve been waiting for, even when it’s in the middle of the night.  

​​
  
6/17/2020 2:22 PM

​JUNE 17, 2020 — Alaskans are out to play during long days that end in midnight sun. Softball fields are packed. The trails are teeming with bikers and walkers. Kids are back to playing full-contact soccer games, and parents are lined up on the sidelines to watch. 

These activities are taking place in Alaska communities while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Cases have been rising day after day since the end of May. Alaska now has more current cases than it did early in the outbreak when we first hunkered down. That means we all need to keep doing what we can to prevent the spread of illness while being active — especially when our activities involve groups of people.

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As Alaska reopens, your family gets to choose if they’ll participate in group activities and team sports. Different families are making different decisions about that after balancing the risk of spreading COVID-19 with the benefits of staying active. The message in Alaska is definitely to get out and play. It’s critical to improve your outlook and reduce your stress. So pick your favorite activity and do it. But if that activity typically involves groups of people — participants or spectators — you need to weigh the risks and benefits for your family and others you work with or regularly spend time with each week. Your family’s chances for serious illness may be low, but your actions and interactions could put others’ health at risk if you work in a nursing home or have close, frequent contact with customers, for example. If you participate in or watch sports, keep finding ways to limit the spread of illness to others. 

“If everyone gives a little right now, we will all get a lot,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer. “Choose to wear your face covering in public places. Keep staying at least six feet from others. If we all do that, we can keep Alaska’s COVID-19 cases low and continue to enjoy sports and other activities that we’ve been missing.”

Participating in and watching group sports must be done differently this year in order to keep Alaska’s COVID-19 cases as low as possible. That’s because attending gatherings, like those that happen with team sports, is one known interaction that increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Those chances go up when a child or coach interacts with more people, when physical interactions are closer and longer, and when multiple players increase the sharing of sports equipment.

 “I know how important summer sports are to families,” Zink said. “I’m hearing from a lot of parents wondering what to do. These are really hard decisions to make, and what works for one family may not work for another. If you spend time with an older person or someone else facing higher chances of illness, it’s very important to make sure your other interactions with people are at a distance. That includes your time participating in and watching sports.”

Anchorage Little League starts a late season by changing everything

Jessie Weiler grew up playing Dimond West Little League, her kids play Dimond West and she’s now the volunteer president. She surveyed Anchorage families to see if they’d participate this summer, and many said they wanted their kids to play ball. Dimond West put together a later-than-usual season that started with a COVID-19 mitigation plan, new consent forms and health assessments every time a child comes to the field. 

DWLL2.JPG“This is not a normal year,” Weiler said she tells parents. “When you think of traditional Little League and the traditional season, this is not it. We have basically restructured everything.”

“Start stretching now,” she said. “Because flexibility is going to be key.”

The special season has new rules for everything: Watching kids during practice is discouraged. Watching games is limited and parents must keep distance from others. Kids, volunteers and parents must wear face coverings whenever possible, but kids won’t be required to wear them during games, Weiler said. Kids are strongly discouraged from sharing any gear. Balls and other gear are sanitized between games, and there’s hand sanitizer when you enter and also on the field.

Dimond West Little League is making it easier to follow these new rules. They bought buffs for every child and volunteer, so everyone on the field will have one to cover their noses and mouths. They also gathered extra bats and helmets to lend to children who didn’t have their own.

Alaska families choose to participate or not in summer group sports

Harlow Robinson is an Anchorage parent of two teenage boys interested in other summer sports. He’s also the executive director of Healthy Futures, an Alaska nonprofit program that provides free physical activity challenges for children. This summer, he started organizing a community forum called the “Responsible Return to Alaska Sports and Recreation,” which has a regularly updated Facebook page. Robinson and his wife, a local nurse, talked with their sons about balancing the value of being involved in their favorite sports versus the potential risk of spreading infection. They decided to let their sons participate.

“We don’t take any of these decisions lightly,” Robinson said. “We made the decision that allowing our kids to participate in the activities that are important to them is an acceptable risk so long as we feel like we are doing what we can to lower the chances of spreading infection.”

Robinson said his son’s running group has a safety plan to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. The teens are required to bring face coverings and stay separated while running outside. If they pass anyone, they’re required to wear the covering. His son’s basketball team also shared similar precautions about keeping distance from others, although that’s not possible when actually playing a game.

“Our biggest concern is protecting people in the community that are most vulnerable,” Robinson said. “Through all of this, we maintained small bubbles of interactions. We’ve decided to let the sports community into those bubbles.”

At the same time, he said, the family maintained rigid limitations on how they interacted with the teens’ grandparents. That included always wearing a mask around them, meeting outdoors, and staying at least 6 feet away. Robinson’s family also tightened other interactions. They shop one at a time in stores. They wear face coverings in public places. 

“Because at the end of the day, there’s still a pandemic,” Robinson said.

Other Alaska parents have carefully considered the decision of allowing their kids to participate in summer sports, and have decided to decline. An Alaska mother of a family who chose not to be named has a teenager who plays volleyball. The family read COVID-19 mitigation plans for summer volleyball camps prior to deciding if their daughter would attend. The mother said she let her daughter try a camp, but then learned that the other players were not keeping distance from others. They were gathering in groups, high-fiving and not wearing face coverings. She shared concern that all participants in sports are not being as careful as they could be to prevent spreading COVID-19. Her daughter stopped participating in that camp. 

 “I want my daughter to play volleyball in the worst way because she loves volleyball,” the mother said. 

“There was a gap between the safety measures our family was taking and those of the organizers and many of the participants in the camp,” she said. “The need to responsibly navigate that divide was too much pressure for a teenager.”

Taking steps to stay healthy and prevent spreading illness through sports

If you or your child chooses to participate in a group activity or team sport, you can take steps to improve the chances of staying healthy and preventing the spread of illness to teammates, coaches and spectators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published considerations for ways that sports organizations can protect players, families and communities. 

The CDC explains the risk of COVID-19 spreading in youth sports as follows:

  • Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with family members
  • Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
  • More Risk: Within-team competition
  • Even More Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area
  • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas
​Below are additional related Questions and Answers. 

What should you think about when choosing the activities and team sports for your family? 

Dr. Zink asked families to consider these questions as they make their decisions: 

  • How much risk is your family willing to accept? Do you work with someone at higher risk of serious illness or have someone at higher risk in your small, trusted social bubble
  • Is there a quality mitigation plan and are coaches, participants and spectators following it? These plans should address the following questions, as examples:
    • Does the plan include engaging in physical distancing while not actively engaged in play (for example, during practice, on the sidelines, or in the dugout)?
    • Does it limit the unnecessary use of shared equipment and gear (for example, protective gear, bats and water bottles)?
    • Does it limit nonessential visitors, spectators and volunteers during practices and games?
    • Does it keep game interaction within the local community (no travel)? 
  • Does everyone agree not to participate in practices and games if they have or a household member has COVID-19 symptoms? 
  • Are organizers of activities and team sports keeping a roster of everyone who participates or attends, in the case that someone gets COVID-19 and others will need to be notified if they had close contact with that ill person? 

As with all COVID-19 guidance, please check with your local community to ensure you are following specific requirements in your area.

How can parents keep the gatherings from getting too large, increasing the chances of spreading illness?

In a typical year, the whole family might attend soccer practice or games. After all, you want to cheer on your child and it’s a great way to catch up with friends on the sidelines. This is not a typical year, however, and socializing, yelling and cheering within close proximity of others needs to be avoided to prevent spreading illness.

If your child is old enough, choose not to stay at the practice or game. Remain in your car when you drop them off and pick them up, or choose to walk or bike. If you stay, have one parent come and leave other family members at home. 

Greet others and socialize from a distance. Don’t gather with others. Make sure you stand or set up your lawn chair or blanket at least 6 feet away from others or farther if you’ll be cheering. Ring bells and use other ways to support the team that don’t require using your voice. Wear a face covering while you are there.

What should you bring — or not bring — to group activities to prevent the spread of illness?

This is not the summer to share foods and drinks. Bring only foods and drinks for your own child. Don’t encourage children to group up at the end of a game to eat or drink together. Rethink your end-of-season celebration. Instead of a potluck party that involves sharing pizza, schedule a picnic and ask everyone to bring their own food and blanket.  

Bring your own hand sanitizer and wipes, using sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Sanitize your hands often, including before and after touching bats, balls or other gear; before eating or drinking; and after using a porta potty or restroom. If it’s an option, wash your hands with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer.

Should kids share gear during practices and games? 

To prevent spreading illness, participants and coaches are encouraged not to share any type of gear. That includes bats, gloves, helmets, water bottles, jerseys, pinnies, towels and more. 

Can I drive the carpool to practice or games? 

This year, carpooling is discouraged to prevent people from multiple households having close contact for an extended amount of time. The best choice is to bike, walk or drive with only family members or those in your small, trusted social bubble​

“If you do drive people from outside your household to an activity, everyone in the car should wear face coverings,” Zink said. “If possible, open car windows to improve air flow and reduce the chances of spreading illness.”

Your child is in the championship game, and you and grandma really want to watch. Should you go? 

Look for creative ways that don’t involve actually attending the game. Since grandma is at higher risk of serious illness, help organize a parent who will video the game and share it in real time online, using an app like Facebook Live. That way grandma can watch, too. 

You can prevent spreading COVID-19 by limiting close contact with others — including other spectators at group activities and games. Bring your own chair, blanket or umbrella. Usually, the kind thing to do is to share what you bring with others. This summer, the kind thing is not to share. Stay on your own blanket or spot on the bleachers and at least 6 feet from others, and even farther if you’ll be cheering. 

What happens if a coach or player on a sports team tests positive for COVID-19? 

When Alaska’s public health nurses receive a report of a positive COVID-19 test result, they immediately reach out to that person (or to their parent or guardian) to interview them about who they had close contact with recently. Close contact typically means 15 or more minutes of contact within 6 feet of someone outside your household. If that close contact includes all or most members of a sports team, the nurses would contact each person to request that they quarantine themselves for 14 days from the date of their last exposure with the sick teammate or coach. The nurses may have to contact the coaches to get a complete roster of who was present during the practice, game or event. That could include spectators and parents. 

Visit the "COVID-19 in Alaska" website for updated information for the state.


Photograph courtesy of Dimond West Little League in Anchorage

​​​​​
  
6/4/2020 5:48 PM

​JUNE 4, 2020 —​ Your son’s friend has a birthday party coming up and your son really wants to go. 

You’ve been invited to a neighborhood potluck for the Fourth of July. That’s 20 households up and down your street and everyone plans to share food and drinks. 

You’ve seen an announcement for a fun run, a parade or a concert where hundreds may gather.

We’ve been hunkered down for months, and people are wanting to get together. Do you go ahead with that birthday party, neighborhood potluck, concert or fun run? And if you do, what can you do to reduce the chances of getting sick or spreading COVID-19 among the guests? 

 “The safest thing is for us to all be in a bubble and to not interact ever together, but that is also not how you live,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer. “So what ways are we able to live and be meaningful and mindful, while minimizing the chances of making others sick?” 

The state is reopening, but Zink reminds Alaskans that “open” doesn’t mean “over.” COVID-19, the virus that’s led to a worldwide pandemic, is not gone. It is still spreading from person to person in Alaska communities and will continue to do so if people don’t take steps to prevent transmission: keep distance from others, wear face coverings in public, wash hands and surfaces, and stay home when sick. Those steps should be taken if you attend gatherings of any size — even if those attending are your friends and family members who are outside your household or small social bubble.

Here’s why: Gatherings of all sizes increase the chances of spreading COVID-19, and those chances go up as the number of attendees go up. A recent summary by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed how several types of interactions in recent months led to COVID-19 spreading quickly. One of those interactions is attending large gatherings. The State of Alaska and CDC have provided guidance about organizing large events.  

But smaller gatherings can spread illness, too. Just in the past week, a number of new COVID-19 infections have been connected to get-togethers and parties that took place in Alaska communities. In some cases, people came to the gatherings from other communities, even other states. Some people had close contact at these parties. 

Leslie Felts is an Alaska public health nurse manager who is helping to trace possible contacts of people infected with COVID-19. She’s noted several types of interactions at these gatherings that can increase the chances of spreading infection: Some people stood near others and had lingering conversations. Some hugged or kissed each other. Some drove in the same car as others, lengthening close contact with people outside their household. 

 “People are social and they want to get together,” Zink said. “Gathering helps us feel hopeful and connected during a really hard time, but we have to do it as safely as possible. This is not the time to have close contact and face-to-face conversations with others at large or small get-togethers. It’s the time to be creative, to come up with new ways to see people and socialize but still keep distance from others.”

Creative approaches to encourage physical distancing might mean drawing chalk markings on streets, sidewalks and driveways to help people see what 6 feet of minimum distance looks like at gatherings. Check out this idea used at a San Francisco park to show spacing among people. Some venues have blocked off rows of seats between non-household groups to space people apart. 

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Zink, Felts and Alaska epidemiologists discussed gatherings and community events this week with Play Every Day.

What kind of get-togethers fall under gatherings and community events?

These get-togethers can range in size. They could include birthday parties, graduation celebrations, neighborhood block parties, weddings, funerals, and other get-togethers with family and friends. On the larger side, they could include parades, sports events and fun runs, fairs and concerts.   

The State of Alaska recently published lessons learned and guidance for organizers planning large gatherings that include more than 250 people. This number includes all attendees during the entire course of the event, such as participants, spectators, players, performers, staff, vendors, volunteers, security, medical personnel and others.

Your family has been invited to a gathering. Should you go? 

As Alaska reopens, your family can make a choice after considering a number of factors. Here are just a few questions to consider:

  • Is the gathering inside or outside?
  • How large is it, and will you be able to keep enough space between you and others?
  • Have the other attendees been following the recommended precautions to prevent getting and spreading illness?
  • Are attendees encouraged to wear face coverings and to stay home if feeling ill?
  • If food and drink are served, are they being shared in a way that helps prevent the spread of infection? One example to prevent the spread of illness would be having one chosen cook at the event who wears a face covering and serves foods and drinks to everyone, limiting the number of people who touch the serving utensils. Or, people attending the event could be asked to bring their own food and drink and not share it with others. 
  • Will you be able to wash or sanitize your hands, and will hosts or organizers be cleaning and disinfecting commonly-touched surfaces like doorknobs, handles or tabletops?

Overall, outdoor gatherings typically have a lower risk of spreading illness due to the air flow and amount of open space for distance. But outdoor events still must offer other precautions in order to prevent spreading COVID-19. That includes giving people enough space to stay at least 6 feet from others, recommending or even providing face coverings when people may get closer than 6 feet, offering enough hand washing and sanitizing stations, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces, and more.

How can you adjust your interactions with others at gatherings to prevent spreading illness?

Human interactions aren’t typically described using math, but Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist, laid out an equation for how these interactions can lead to spreading illness: 

The likelihood of an interaction spreading illness is a function of distance and time.

When someone gets a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, a public health nurse quickly reaches out to that person to find out with whom they had close contact. Distance is defined as close contact — being within 6 feet of someone. Time is typically important when it’s for 15 or more minutes, McLaughlin said. Again, distance and time. 

But it doesn’t always look as simple as that, McLaughlin said. Consider that an infected person is at a gathering, and a number of people are in that same room. Someone may be farther away than 6 feet from the infected person, but in the same general area for an hour or more. That lengthy exposure could lead to spreading infection to others in the area. Or, you might be within 6 feet of an infected person for just a few seconds — but during that time the infected person sneezes or coughs into your face. The time part of that equation is now significantly shorter, but that one sneeze or cough may be enough to spread the virus. 

Given all of that, McLaughlin, Felts and others recommended adjusting your interactions at gatherings to prevent spreading illness: 

  • Keep a 6-foot distance from others who are not part of your household or small social bubble — even if they are good friends or family members. 
  • Don’t share cars on the way to or from gatherings and don’t linger within 6 feet of others at the gathering.
  • Don’t stay in one place for long. Moving around encourages air flow around you and can help prevent spreading the virus. Gathering outside — but still at a distance — is usually safer than spending time with others in an enclosed space.
  • Bring your own chairs, plates, silverware, glasses, food, drinks and hand sanitizer.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  • Stay home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage others to do the same. Possible symptoms include fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, new loss of taste or smell, and other symptoms listed on this CDC website

Should you wear face coverings at parties and gatherings? 

Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth when you are within 6 feet of “others.” In this case, “others” includes people who don’t live in your household or are not part of your small, trusted social bubble. At the end of this Q and A, you’ll find a reminder about the social bubble concept for Alaska. 

You typically come within 6 feet of others when you’re talking to people, receiving or giving food and drinks, or standing in lines. COVID-19 can be a sneaky virus, infecting some people without causing symptoms. Those infected people can spread the virus through their respiratory droplets without even realizing they have COVID-19. Infected people wearing face coverings are less likely to spread the virus to others. Healthy people wearing face coverings are less likely to catch the virus from others.  If everyone who is able to wear a face covering does so when they’re in close contact with others, the possibility of COVID-19 spreading is greatly reduced. Face coverings should not be used by children under 2 or those who would have difficulty breathing with a covering in place.

It’s your nephew’s birthday and you want to show that you love him. You want to congratulate the bride. Can you give them a hug, kiss or handshake at these gatherings? 

Right now, the best way to show others you care about them is to give them space instead of giving them a hug, kiss or handshake. Again, some people have COVID-19 with no symptoms or minor symptoms, so they don’t realize they’re sick. If they hug or have close contact with others, they could spread a virus they don’t know they have. No one wants to unintentionally make a friend or loved one sick.  

Should you attend a get-together or community event if you have higher chances of serious illness related to COVID-19?

People in higher-risk groups should talk with their health care provider about attending get-togethers and large events. That includes people who are 65 or older and those living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. It also includes people who have ongoing health problems, such as heart and lung conditions, asthma, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, cancer, severe obesity and other conditions that may weaken the immune system.  

Slightly expanding your social bubble is a way to stay connected without gatherings. What’s the safest way to create that trusted bubble?

Alaska families, individuals and couples may be feeling lonely and needing more social contact with others right now. Those households can consider adding one other trusted household to their social bubble. If you do choose to expand your bubble, Zink advises keeping that bubble small with the same members over time. She strongly cautions against mixing bubbles. Creating a slightly larger bubble requires a special agreement between households. Members of this new bubble must agree not to join another bubble, because if one person in your group gets the virus, it will likely infect others, too.  Everyone within the bubble must agree to follow health and safety precautions, like minimizing interactions outside their bubble and staying at least 6 feet away from people outside the bubble. This concept is further explained in this recent Play Every Day blog​.  




 



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collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-05</hide>May 2020 ‎(2)
  
5/14/2020 3:13 PM

​MAY 14, 2020 — Since March, Alaskans have been making many sacrifices to stay home and keep at least 6 feet away from non-household members. Limiting social contact has had an extremely positive impact on keeping our COVID-19 rates low, allowing hospitals and health care providers to care for those most in need. However, it has also been a lonely and difficult time for many people. 

Families and friends.pngParents are struggling to work as they also care for their children. Children are missing their friends and the routine of school. Single people or elderly adults may feel even more isolated. 

As communities across Alaska are starting to reopen responsibly and certain businesses have opened their doors, families are wondering what that might also mean for social interactions. Should we keep staying 6 feet away from others? Can families and friends start socializing with another family or friend? Can kids play together? Can you go for a hike with your best friend?

“We have worked so well together in Alaska, staying close to home in March and April and keeping our number of infections low,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer. “Alaskans acted together and took this seriously, which is why we’ve had such success.  We’re in this for the long haul, and we don’t want to undo those hard-earned gains.” 

Zink said we are now entering a time when Alaskans have more choices. It will continue to be important for everyone to follow basic precautions and adhere to current state mandates and health guidance. But within those rules, individuals and families can consider their own risk level and make choices that best fit their families as restrictions ease.  

The safest option is to continue to limit your contacts only to your immediate household and to stay home as much as possible. Zink realizes, however, that some people may need more social support over the long term.  

“We know many people are feeling lonely. They want more social contact or could use some help with child care,” she said. “One choice as we reopen is to slightly expand your social bubble to be more connected with a few close friends or family who help support each other, while continuing to prevent a considerable increase in infections.”

In this Q and A, Zink addresses in more detail how families can make safe choices that meet their own personal needs while protecting others.

As Alaska reopens responsibly, should you still stay 6 feet away from others outside your household? 

Yes. Reopening allows us to start returning to some services, like getting haircuts and going to retail stores. It does not, however, mean that you should get close to others the way we did before the pandemic, Zink said. 

Reopening the state, phase by phase, will be more likely to continue if Alaska can keep the number of new infections low. And that’s more likely to happen if Alaskans can keep following the precautions already in place. That means continuing to maintain at least 6 feet from others to minimize the spread of the disease. It’s also important to continue with these other basic precautions: 

  • Wash your hands often and well with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you can’t access soap.
  • Avoid touching your face, including your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • Wear a face covering:
    • When in public and in places that are reopening, such as stores and salons.
    • When exerting yourself through physical activity or passing within 20 feet of others outside.

​​​​What else can Alaskans do? 

  • Minimize your trips out in public, especially if you have regular contact with people who have higher chances for severe illness.
  • Continue to work from home when possible. When at work, maintain a 6-foot distance from coworkers and customers.
  • Keep a daily journal of anyone you came into close contact with during the day. If you can’t recall all of the people you’ve had 10 minutes or more of in-person contact with during your week, then you are likely having too much contact with others at this time.
  • Stay home if you are sick or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Get tested immediately if you are experiencing symptoms.

“The choices that each Alaskan makes during this time will have a big impact on our ability as a whole to keep infections low in Alaska,” Zink said. “That means it matters every single time you choose to stay 6 feet away from others outside your household, every time you wear a face covering in a store, and every time you stay home when you are feeling sick. Every single action on your part adds up to us staying healthier as a state.”

Zink said taking these steps will remain critical for months to come — particularly until there is a vaccine and effective treatment options for people infected with the virus. 

Can we start visiting other families or friends?

Yes, but be cautious. Keep physical distance from others, even close friends, and try to do most of your socializing outdoors where air flow is better and the virus has a harder time spreading. We’re entering an ideal time for this now in Alaska, with longer days and warmer weather. But even outdoors, it continues to be important to stay at least 6 feet away from people outside your household. 

Can we expand our social bubble to include more people who we interact with in a closer way? 

“This is a very interesting question, and one we’ve been exploring in recent weeks,” Zink said. “We’re watching other countries like New Zealand and some Canadian provinces try this approach. It’s also been explored by modeling studies in terms of the safest ways to expand your social bubble while still keeping the spread of infection as low as possible.”

To minimize the chance of spreading infection, again the safest thing is to keep hunkering down with only your household and minimize public outings. But families, individuals and couples may be feeling lonely and needing more social contact with others. Those households could consider adding one other trusted household to their social bubble, Zink said. Think of this as an expansion of your family. You will have more help and more people to socialize with, and that’s a plus. With a bigger family, though, you will have more to keep track of — including how much contact each member has with others. 

If you do choose to expand your social bubble, Zink advises keeping your bubble small with the same members over time. She strongly cautions against mixing bubbles. Creating a slightly larger bubble requires a special agreement between households. Members of this new bubble must agree not to join another bubble, because if one person in your group gets the virus, it will likely infect others, too.  Everyone within the bubble must agree to follow health and safety precautions, like minimizing interactions outside their bubble and staying at least 6 feet away from people outside the bubble. 

Consider your family’s needs and those of others when you think about expanding your social bubble. Would it be helpful to include an aunt, uncle and cousins, or another family, to help with child care? Does someone in your family have special needs that would be met by expanding your bubble? Do you have neighbors you want to see more often? Do you need help caring for an elderly parent? 

“The idea is to build your bubble so it’s mutually beneficial for everyone involved,” Zink said. “You have to think carefully about everyone’s needs and then selectively connect with just a few others in ways that benefit everyone involved.” 

Once you’ve built a slightly expanded bubble, the way you interact with those inside it can loosen up a bit. You don’t need to stay 6 feet away from people in your bubble and you don’t need to wear face coverings around them. You can invite people in your bubble into your home. You can share a meal. Your kids can play together inside or outside. Adults can socialize with each other, and parents can exchange child care. You can drive together in the same car to go for a hike or bike ride together. In other words, things can feel pretty close to normal within your bubble. 

Slightly expanding your social bubble must be done carefully and safely to prevent the spread of infection:

  • Keep members of the bubble the same week after week. Don’t add or subtract members as you go. One exception to this is if someone in your bubble gets sick. The ill person will need to be quickly isolated and the whole bubble may need to be quarantined, including missing work and being separated from each other. 
  • Play and socialize in person only within your bubble. Kids can play with a small group of other children in their social bubble, but they still need to limit interaction with and stay 6 feet away from other children outside of their bubble. Adults also shouldn’t socialize in close proximity (closer than 6 feet) with members of another social bubble. 
  • Be careful to protect people inside your bubble. If you are a caregiver for an older parent, a relative or someone else who needs help, you can build your social bubble to include that person. Zink said it’s important for people who create bubbles that include members at higher risk for serious illness to keep those bubbles as small as possible. People who are at higher risk for serious illness should not have interaction with anyone who has regular contact with others, such as health care workers or grocery store clerks. 

“Having these conversations to build a new social bubble will likely feel awkward, like you’re picking a team and some of your closest friends and family won’t be on it,” Zink said. “I definitely understand that, but it’s something to consider and work through. The focus of these expanded bubbles is to increase your support network if you want to, while still minimizing the chance that someone in your bubble will become infected and spread illness to others. Keeping our bubbles small and consistent is really important to prevent an increase in the number of infections and a stress on our health care providers and hospitals.”

As with all precautions, Alaskans still need to monitor their local guidance in case it requires more restrictions about interacting with others outside their household. For example, if the rules state that you may participate in an activity only with household members, that refers to your actual household, not your expanded social bubble. Please follow the guidance so Alaska can keep moving forward and easing restrictions instead of needing to reinstate them. 

Can families visit playgrounds? 

Keep checking your local and school district guidance on playgrounds. Some communities and districts have started reopening playgrounds, including the Anchorage School District and Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department. If you are going to use playgrounds, however, your children still need to stay at least 6 feet away from others not in their household or social bubble, and children ages 2 and older should wear a face covering while playing. Playground equipment also will be touched by many people, which could increase the chances of spreading infection. Make sure to thoroughly wash children’s hands after touching playground equipment. When soap is not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent them from swallowing it. 

Should we still limit playing or socializing with grandparents, other adults over age 65 or people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness? 

This has been an incredibly challenging time for grandparents and older adults, as well as their families who want to spend time together. Right now, the safest way to spend time with grandparents and older adults is to do so outdoors, and for grandkids to stay at least 6 feet away from their grandparents, Zink said. Take advantage of these long, warm days and enjoy a visit by sitting at a distance from each other on the deck. Go for a walk together, but stay at least 6 feet apart and wear face coverings if you could pass near others, especially people at higher risk of illness. Continue to have regular visits through phone, email or online apps like FaceTime and Skype. Keeping this distance is most important to protect the health of older Alaskans and others at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. 

I need a hug. You need a hug. Can that happen with people outside your social bubble? 

So many of us are ready to show each other how much we’ve missed them, but that will have to wait. 

“I know it’s so hard to refrain from touching your friends. We’re social creatures and accustomed to physical interaction,” Zink said. “But the more we can keep our distance right now, the better off we will be. Try to find a unique way to say hello to a friend, like an air high five, an air fist bump, an air hug or a special wave or gesture. I’ve seen people having fun with this, which is inspiring and hopeful. We can find ways to stay close and connected, while refraining from contact.” 

Stay tuned. Enjoy time with a few more friends and family, but remember this could change. 

As health guidance on COVID-19 is shared, we’re continually reminded of this message: Stay tuned because things may change. That’s still the case. Alaska’s health and political leaders are closely watching what happens as we have more contact with others. 

Slightly expanded social bubbles are possible right now because the spread of infection is low in Alaska. If the number of infections increases as our contact with others goes up, the state as a whole or individual communities may need to restrict interaction again and return to hunkering down with just family and household members. 

“We know it could be many months before we have a trusted vaccine and treatments that work. We need endurance to get through this time, and I know that’s hard,” Zink said. “When possible, we want to make more options available to Alaskans. We want everyone to be able to get the support they need to stay strong as we continue to cope with COVID-19. It’s reasonable now to slightly expand your social circle. Just be sure to keep that group small and consistent and follow precautions that meet the needs of your own unique situation to keep everyone safe.”

Keep monitoring Alaska's COVID-19 webpage​ and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services webpage for updates. 

  
5/13/2020 3:08 PM

PAN Graph.pngMAY 13, 2020 — Alaska kids are now getting less physical activity and more non-academic screen time than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

That’s what nearly 750 parents across Alaska said when filling out a recent survey from the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). Parents from every region of the state responded, but about 70% of them were from Anchorage, the Mat-Su Borough or Fairbanks area. The full results of that survey called HEALTH are now online

“It’s concerning that 6 out of 10 parents said their child is getting less physical activity each day than before the pandemic,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program. “Daily activity can really help relieve the stresses that children might be feeling right now. The same goes for adults. Physical activity can improve your mood and reduce your stress and feelings of depression.”

Positive results can be immediate, Fink said. Just one session of activity can lower your blood pressure, improve your body’s ability to keep blood sugars level and help you sleep better that night.

Since April, thousands of Alaska parents have filled out online surveys from DHSS to share how the pandemic is impacting their lives. The first survey that was completed between April 13–23, 2020, revealed that 3 out of 4 Alaska parents were concerned that the pandemic is negatively impacting their child’s physical health. Even more parents were concerned about the impact on their child’s mental health.

Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition and Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology programs worked together on the second, most recent survey. Alaska parents completed it between April 22 and May 4, 2020. This HEALTH survey showed the following, in addition to the physical activity findings shared above:

  • Many Alaska children have been learning at home this spring, so there’s an expected increase in academic-related screen time. But parents indicated that screen time not spent on schoolwork has increased as well.  
    • Nearly 8 out of 10 (78%) parents said their child is getting more non-academic screen time each day than before the pandemic. This includes time that a child spends in front of a TV, computer, smart phone, or other electronic device watching shows, playing games, accessing the internet, or using social media. 
  • Families are very informed about recommendations to be active outside in a safe way during the pandemic:
    • Nearly every parent responding to the survey is "very aware" of the importance of staying 6 feet away from others (98%).
    • Nearly 9 out of 10 are very aware about the importance of staying closer to home when possible (85%).
    • Slightly fewer, but still a majority of parents, are very aware of the recommendations to wear a cloth face covering if passing within 20 feet of others when breathing hard (72%).

We asked if sugary drink consumption changed during the pandemic because we know that too many Alaskans drink more sugary drinks than is healthy. Drinking sugary beverages can increase people’s chances of developing cavities, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

  • About 3 out of 4 parents (74%) said the amount of sugary drinks they serve their child is no different than before the pandemic. Sugary drinks include soda, sports and energy drinks, as well as fruit-flavored and powdered drinks. About 10% of parents said they served more sugary drinks during the pandemic, and 16% reported serving fewer sugary drinks during the pandemic. 
    • According to pre-pandemic surveys, nearly 1 out of 3 Alaska 3-year-olds has a sugary drink every day. That increases to about 1 out of 2 Alaska high school students having a sugary drink every day. Water and plain milk are the healthiest drink options. 

Families needing help during the pandemic can call 2-1-1, visit Help Me Grow Alaska or continue following Alaska’s Play Every Day campaign for updated guidance. Visit the Office of Children’s Services Child Safety and Well-Being During COVID-19 website for information for youth, families and community members. Resources specifically for parents and caregivers of children with special health care needs are available on the Division of Public Health’s Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs website. Parents feeling overwhelmed can call the Alaska Careline at 877-266-4357, text TalkWithUs to 66746 or visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline​.


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collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-04</hide>April 2020 ‎(3)
  
4/23/2020 11:47 AM

child in backpack.jpg

​APRIL 23, 2020 – It’s a challenging time right now.

You can’t attend classes at school.

You can’t give your friends a high-five in the hallway.

And you can’t travel as far as you used to go.

But you can still get out and play. Daily physical activity can make a big difference in how you feel right now. It improves your mood and eases your stress. Just one session of activity​ can help you feel less anxious and improve your sleep that night. One session can also lower your blood pressure and improve your body’s ability to keep blood sugars level.

Play Every Day has been updating its blog about the safe ways to be physically active while keeping physical distance from others. Now, it’s sharing that message through a short video that you can find online on Play Every Day's YouTube channel

The video highlights all the ways you can still be active: 

  • You can do indoor and outdoor activities as a family.
  • You can have a great time doing simple things. Puddle-jumping is free, and chasing bubbles is fun.
  • You can hike, bike, walk and run — just remember to stay at least 6 feet away from others. Wear a face covering when you’re breathing hard while active and you may pass within 20 feet from others.

So get out and go play.

And do it every day.

Please share this video​ with others who could use a little inspiration to stay active today.

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 11.53.49 AM.jpg


  
4/9/2020 3:42 PM

Zink Mask Resized.jpgAPRIL 9, 2020 — Communities across Alaska continue to follow hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines that have changed how we should be physically active to prevent the spread of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. 

“Alaska is beautiful, and being outside can be a good way to be able to take care of your physical and mental health — but it’s important that you do it safely,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer. 

We talked with Zink to update our ongoing list of Questions and Answers for safe ways to get out and play right now. Her answers address wearing face coverings outside of your home and choosing the safest places to be active —​ the closer to home, the better. We’ve added her guidance to that previously shared by Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist with Alaska’s Division of Public Health. It’s important to stay up to date with your community’s guidelines. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is also updating its coronavirus information daily at coronavirus.alaska.gov.

Should you always wear a face covering when you are physically active outdoors? 

That depends on your surroundings, your activity, who you are with, and how closely you might pass by others. When you are being active outside, you are less likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus when there’s good air movement around you and when you are not touching surfaces, like playground equipment, Zink said. 

Particles that we breathe or cough out can pass farther when we’re singing, running or doing other activities that require exerting ourselves, Zink said. That makes wearing face coverings particularly important when you are breathing harder and may pass by others while being active or come within 20 feet of others.

Cover your nose and mouth with a face covering when you are being active outside in a way that makes you breathe harder and in a place that you’ll likely pass people or come within 20 feet of others who are not members of your household. That could be strenuous hiking, running or biking. Remember to always keep distance between you and people who are not members of your household, even if you’re wearing a face covering. 

You do not need to wear a face covering when you are doing an activity outside by yourself or only with family members, and you are not passing by others.

Who is the face covering protecting when you are wearing it? You, others or both?

“The reason you mask up — it’s not to protect you from others you are passing, it’s to protect others from you,” Zink said. 

“I put my face covering up, I protect you. You put your face covering up, you protect me.”

The types of face coverings we are wearing outside right now are primarily worn to catch our own respiratory droplets and prevent them from spreading to others, Zink said. These homemade face coverings or buffs typically aren’t made with material that’s tightly-woven enough to protect you from very small droplets that others could be breathing or coughing out. That’s why the combination of wearing a face covering when exerting yourself plus maintaining a wide distance from others is so important, Zink said. 

What kind of face covering should you wear, and does the type of material matter?

The material does matter, Zink said. The thicker the material, the better.

“If you can hold it up and see light through it, it’s not going to be OK,” Zink said. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published this webpage about face coverings​ and several ways to make them.

Zink recommended using a covering that has a double layer of fabric, perhaps quilting fabric with a thicker weave. If you are an active runner, Zink encouraged making sure your face covering is thick, but also comfortable enough to breathe through the entire time. 

Zink cautioned people not to use vacuum cleaner bags or industrial filters in their homemade coverings because those can have fine particles that you could inhale and cause lung damage.

What is the safest way to take off your face covering when you finish your activity?

Zink gave these steps for people wearing face coverings that hook over their ears: Wash your hands before removing the face covering. Remove the covering by touching only the ear loops, not the front of the covering or your face. Pull the face covering away from your face, and don’t have it touch your eyes as you remove it. If it’s a cloth covering, immediately put it in the washing machine and wash in hot water. If you don’t have a washing machine, you can wash the face covering in hot water and soap. 

“The virus dies with heat and soap,” Zink said. “It does not die with cold.”

Then wash your hands again. Good handwashing is important, both before and after taking off your face covering, Zink said.

If you are wearing a buff, remove it by pulling it forward away from your face, close your eyes and pull it up over your head. Wash your face and hands immediately afterward. Wash the buff like you would wash the cloth face covering above. Then wash your hands again.

Are you allowed to be physically active at a park or on the trails, or do you have to stay on your own property?

Alaska’s guidance allows you to use local parks and trails, so long as you stay at least 6 feet away from others, Zink said. You do not need to stay on your own property. She said people should continue to follow their local guidelines, too, as they could include other restrictions. Also follow the guidance about wearing face coverings while you're active outside.

Are you required to stay in your own community to be physically active?

Guidance is changing as scientists and health providers learn more about COVID-19.  At this time, the state guidance encourages Alaskans to recreate in open spaces and on trails that are near their homes and to comply with guidelines about social distancing and wearing face coverings. 

“Be respectful of the places you are going,” Zink said. Don’t drive outside your community and fill up your gas tank there or stop along the way for food. Avoid touching things in other communities, like toilets and playground equipment. Don’t linger at trailheads where other people may be. Wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer when that’s not possible.

Right now, Alaska’s guidelines continue to allow outdoor recreation at a distance from others because there are health benefits that come with safe activity. Zink stressed the importance of choosing activities that limit falling and getting hurt.

Please keep reading below to see previous Questions and Answers about safe physical activity in Alaska.

Should families avoid play dates in communities with hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines?

Communities across Alaska have guidelines in place that state people should not invite friends or family members to their homes for a visit. 

“What that means is families should avoid indoor play dates in communities with hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines,” Castrodale said.

“We recognize this is really hard for kids who feel isolated and can be stressful, but it’s needed for the time being to limit the potential spreading of illness.”

Families should prioritize playing outside with their family members and staying at least 6 feet away from people who are not members of their household. This may be difficult for families with little children who are too young to understand how to maintain a safe distance from others, Castrodale said.

If you play in the same areas as other families, choose wide open places and activities that are easier to do with distance – like hiking and biking. She also said to avoid activities that involve direct contact with non-family members, like football or tag.

“Contact sports are best to avoid right now,” she said.

Castrodale recognized that it’s important for kids to stay connected with friends to reduce the feeling of isolation, but stressed that kids will need to maintain that connection virtually right now. She recommended apps like FaceTime or Skype or other online options for staying in touch with friends.

Should children avoid outdoor playgrounds? 

Yes. Picking physical activities other than the playground right now is the best option. Playgrounds are a place where children will want to interact and it will be difficult to have them remain far enough away from each other. It is also a place where parents could find themselves accidently gathering too closely with others. Please keep checking local guidance.

Should children limit playing or socializing with grandparents or other adults over age 60? 

Castrodale said it’s wonderful to support children’s relationships with grandparents and older adults, but physical interaction between them right now should be limited or avoided. People 60 and older and those with ongoing health concerns, like heart disease and diabetes, face the highest chances for serious health problems related to coronavirus.

“Part of this idea of social distancing is to protect our most vulnerable folks,” Castrodale said.

So while it’s sad to limit face-to-face interactions with older loved ones, that might be the best thing for their health right now. Instead, use apps like FaceTime or Skype to keep your children and grandparents in contact.

“Right now, the best way to love grandma is to send her a nice note, rather than to see her in person,” Castrodale said.

What can your family do to prevent the spread of illness? 

Kids and parents should do several things to prevent getting and spreading illness:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song from start to finish twice. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that’s made with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover their own mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing, either through coughing into their elbows or ideally using a tissue. Then, immediately throw the tissue away and wash their hands.
  • Avoid touching their faces, especially with unwashed hands. That includes rubbing eyes or touching noses or mouths. 
  • Don’t share cups, water bottles, utensils or food.
  • Parents can frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that kids touch a lot, like doorknobs and toys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting homes with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections. This webpage includes a section for routine cleaning of households that states families can use household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants on frequently touched surfaces. 
  • Children and adults should stay home when they have a fever (100.4°F or higher), are coughing or are short of breath. These are some of the symptoms of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. Families also should follow guidelines about limiting contact with others who have recently traveled outside Alaska. These are found under "COVID-19 Health Alerts and Mandates" on coronavirus.alaska.gov.

What should you do if your child becomes sick?

Castrodale said the most important thing to remember is to keep sick children inside the home and away from others, including siblings.

“Anyone who is sick needs to be isolated,” she said. Of course, a parent will need to provide care for that child, but siblings and others should be separated as much as possible. If parents believe the child needs medical care, they should call their provider before going in to the clinic, she said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is updating its coronavirus information every day. Please stay informed by visiting coronavirus.alaska.gov.

Photograph of Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska's Chief Medical Officer, wearing a face covering while being active outdoors.


​​
  
4/3/2020 7:51 AM

IMG_20190618_123254_874.jpgAPRIL 3, 2020 - A month ago, we had predictable schedules. The parents headed to work at 8 a.m., checking their calendars for meetings and deadlines. The children caught the bus or a ride to school right around the same time. Every hour, they knew what subject was coming next: math, science, language arts, physical education. 

And now all that’s turned upside down. 

We’re trying to add routines back to our days at a time when nothing feels routine. Our partner in physical activity, the nonprofit Healthy Futures program, has come out strong with two ways to keep activity top of mind every day. One is to continue the Healthy Futures Challenge through participating elementary schools, in whatever way that works for the teachers and students at each school. The other is a statewide virtual physical activity competition that usually launches in May, but jump-started in April to help Alaska youth and adults stay active right now. This year, Healthy Futures is running “100 Miles in April” and you can still sign up online

Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, stressed that 100 Miles in April is open to youth and adults of all abilities, and it’s not just for people who consider themselves athletes. It’s about staying motivated to move right now and keeping in touch online with others who are doing the same. 

Families can form a team with their household members, their extended family, or with friends or coworkers to stay connected. When team members do any activity  running, hiking, walking, biking or anything else  they record the activity on the online platform. The goal is to complete 100 miles of activity individually by the end of April. More than 150 teams with almost 2,000 participating individuals, including many high school students, had signed up by early April, Robinson said. 

“I think in a time like this — when we’re all scrambling to adapt and figure out our new normal — that it’s really important to implement routines in our life,” Robinson said. One of those important routines is daily physical activity, which leads to better physical health and helps you feel better by reducing stress and anxiety.

One participating team captain is Ava Earl, well-known Girdwood musician and South High School runner. She was excited for track — her favorite sport — to start after spring break, but then her season and everyone else’s got canceled when schools closed.

“That was pretty disappointing,” said Earl, a junior. Then she heard about 100 Miles in April and began reaching out to others to build a team. 

“I thought I was definitely not the only one who was bummed not to be able to race track, so I thought this was an awesome idea,” Earl said. 

She was able to rally 25 other high school runners and some of their moms, including her own. This challenge is about being active and staying connected virtually, but it’s also a competition. Some participants like Earl are having fun with that. Her team name? “Ava’s Domination Squad.”  

Here’s how both of these challenges will run this spring.

Healthy Futures Challenge 

In February, more than 130 elementary schools across Alaska began the free Healthy Futures Challenge. In a typical year, the challenge works like this: Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. After completing the printed logs, students turn them in to their teachers for prizes.

When schools closed in March and that closure extended through May 1, Healthy Futures faced some unusual hurdles: Kids were still filling out the March and April logs, but they wouldn’t be going to school during that time to return the print copies to their teachers. During a typical challenge, teachers keep track of the total number of participating students, and then Healthy Futures staff mail the teachers prizes to give to those students at school. That model would no longer work while school was closed. 

Robinson said the Healthy Futures Challenge will continue through the end of April, and he plans to reach out to all participating teachers to provide help. If possible, he’s encouraging participating schools to continue the challenge because the log is one more option for maintaining movement right now.

“It gives kids structure at home and keeps them active,” he said.

Teachers will be able to figure out what works best for their schools and students in terms of collecting completed logs for March and April. To make that easier, students can take photographs of their completed logs and send them to their teachers, Robinson said. Healthy Futures also will send PDF versions of the log form to teachers so they can share that option with families. There’s also a fillable form for kids to track their activity online and then email it in later. Robinson said delivering prizes to the schools remains a challenge that he’s trying to figure out. In the meantime, he encourages teachers to keep cheering on kids who track their activity.

100 Miles in April … and Later May

Robinson said the special 100 Miles in April competition honors staying socially connected while remaining physically distanced. Here’s how: You can sign up as a team — family, friends, coworkers or a former sports team that can no longer compete in person. You stay social with your team by keeping in touch through phone or online about your challenge to complete 100 miles of activity in April. When it comes to doing the activity you choose, however, you do it alone or with your family to honor the requirement to stay at least 6 feet away from non-family members right now. 

Remember that you can still sign up for the April challenge online, and there will be Healthy Futures T-shirts and hoodies as prizes. Healthy Futures plans to reset the competition on May 1 and start 100 Miles in May for those who want to continue. These challenges are typically fundraisers for the nonprofit organization. Pledge donations are still accepted, but Robinson said the focus is more on motivating people to keep moving at a challenging time.

“This year — because of everything happening — this is a great resource we can provide to the community,” he said. “Pledging is an option this year, but sitting around while you hunker down is not.”

Earl said her goal is to run 5 miles a day during the 100 miles challenge. She said she can run along the trails in Girdwood and still keep distance from others. When they pass, runners move off to the sides of the trails, she said.

“It’s a good part of my day to just go out and enjoy,” Earl said. “A bonus is I get to spend more time exercising with my family, which I would not be doing otherwise.”

Follow the Healthy Futures program and Play Every Day campaign​ on Facebook as they continue to post ways to stay active and healthy during this challenging time. 

Photograph of Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director, hiking with his sons in Alaska. Photograph courtesy of Harlow Robinson.


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collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-03</hide>March 2020 ‎(3)
  
3/23/2020 5:45 PM

This was published in late March 2020, but the most current guidance can be found on the updated blog published here.

MARCH 23, 2020 — Communities across Alaska are now following hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines that have led to a change in how kids should play to prevent the spread of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. In these communities, families should avoid indoor play dates. They should prioritize playing outdoors with family only. Doing an outdoor activity in the same area with a small group of non-family members would be OK only if you could ensure non-family members stayed at least 6 feet away.  

Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist with Alaska’s Division of Public Health, updated answers to how families can still be active under these new guidelines. Castrodale also advised families to stay up to date with their community’s guidelines. Anchorage’s hunker-down guidelines, as an example, are explained online through these FAQs. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is also updating its coronavirus information daily. Please stay informed by visiting coronavirus.alaska.gov.

Can children get out and play right now?

Children can definitely get outside and play right now, but they need to do it carefully. Activity is so important for kids’ physical health, and also for their mental health. Physical activity can help them feel better and reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, which may be showing up during this challenging time.

Children can run around, hike, bike, ice skate, sled, cross country ski and do other activities as long as the weather and conditions allow. The most important recommendation is to give each other space while doing these activities. Spread yourselves out and maintain 6 feet of distance from people other than family members.

Should families avoid play dates in communities with hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines?

The Municipality of Anchorage has a hunker-down guideline in place that states people should not invite friends or family members to their homes for a visit. 

“What that means is families should avoid indoor play dates in communities with hunker-down and shelter-in-place guidelines,” Castrodale said.

“We recognize this is really hard for kids who feel isolated and can be stressful, but it’s needed for the time being to limit the potential spreading of illness.”

Families should prioritize playing outside with their family members. If non-family members are playing in the same area, they need to stay at least 6 feet away. This may be difficult for families with little children who are too young to understand how to maintain a safe distance from others, Castrodale said.

If you play in the same areas as other families, choose activities that are easier to do with distance – like hiking and biking. She also recommended avoiding activities that involve direct contact with non-family members, like football or tag.

“Contact sports are best to avoid right now,” she said.

Castrodale recognized that it’s important for kids to stay connected with friends to reduce the feeling of isolation, but stressed that kids will need to maintain that connection virtually right now. She recommended apps like FaceTime or Skype or other online options for staying in touch with friends.

Should children avoid outdoor playgrounds? 

Picking physical activities other than the playground right now is the best option. Playgrounds are a place where children will want to interact and it will be difficult to have them remain 6 feet from each other. It is also a place where parents could find themselves accidently gathering too closely with others.

Should children limit playing or socializing with grandparents or other adults over age 60? 

Castrodale said it’s wonderful to support children’s relationships with grandparents and older adults, but physical interaction between them right now should be limited or avoided. People 60 and older and those with chronic medical conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, face the highest chances for serious health problems related to coronavirus.

“Part of this idea of social distancing is to protect our most vulnerable folks,” Castrodale said.

So while it’s sad to limit face-to-face interactions with older loved ones, that might be the best thing for their health right now. Instead, use apps like FaceTime or Skype to keep your children and grandparents in contact.

“Right now, the best way to love grandma is to send her a nice note, rather than to see her in person,” Castrodale said.

What can your family do to prevent the spread of illness? 

Kids and parents should do several things to prevent getting and spreading illness:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song from start to finish twice. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that’s made with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover their own mouths and nose when coughing or sneezing, either through coughing into their elbows or ideally using a tissue. Then, immediately throw the tissue away and wash their hands.
  • Avoid touching their faces, especially with unwashed hands. That includes rubbing eyes or touching noses or mouths. 
  • Don’t share cups, water bottles, utensils or food.
  • Parents can frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that kids touch a lot, like doorknobs and toys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting homes with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections. This webpage includes a section for routine cleaning of households that states families can use household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants on frequently touched surfaces. 
  • Children and adults should stay home when they have a fever (100.4°F or higher), are coughing or are short of breath. These are some of the symptoms of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. Families also should follow guidelines about limiting contact with others who have recently traveled outside Alaska. These are found under "COVID-19 Health Alerts and Mandates" on coronavirus.alaska.gov.

What should you do if your child becomes sick?

Castrodale said the most important thing to remember is to keep sick children inside the home and away from others, including siblings.

“Anyone who is sick needs to be isolated,” she said. Of course, a parent will need to provide care for that child, but siblings and others should be separated as much as possible. If parents believe the child needs medical care, they should call their provider before going in to the clinic, she said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is updating its coronavirus information every day. Please stay informed by visiting coronavirus.alaska.gov.

  
3/19/2020 11:57 AM

This was published in March 2020, but the most current guidance can be found on the updated blog published here​140412 Play Every Day-2480 web.jpg

MARCH 19, 2020 — Schools across Alaska are closed through May 1 to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of coronavirus. That means staying at least 6 feet away from people other than family members, or about a ski’s length away. 

The school closure and recommendation for social distancing leave families trying to make sense of a big question: Can their children still play outside the home, and if so, how do they do it safely and minimize the chances of getting and spreading illness?

Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist with Alaska’s Division of Public Health, answers this and other questions. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is also updating its coronavirus information every day. Please stay informed by visiting coronavirus.alaska.gov

Can kids get outside and play during social distancing, or do they have to play only inside? 

Children can definitely get outside and play right now. Activity is so important for kids’ physical health, but also for their mental health. The national physical activity recommendations say physical activity can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, which may be showing up during this challenging time.

The days are getting longer in Alaska and some communities have a lot of remaining snow for outdoor activities. Children can run around, kick a ball back and forth, hike, bike, ice skate, sled, cross country ski and do other activities as long as the weather and conditions allow. The most important recommendation is to give each other space while doing these activities. Spread yourselves out and maintain 6 feet of distance from people other than family members. 

Kids and adults should avoid activities that involve contact with non-family members, like tag, football and hockey. 

“Contact sports are best to avoid right now,” Castrodale said.

Do kids need to play only with their siblings and family, or can they play with friends?

Kids can play with friends outside their family circle, but Castrodale said to keep the group small and consistent.

“The fewer people you have contact with, the better,” she said. This line of reasoning follows the national recommendation of canceling mass gatherings and even group interactions of more than 10 people. 

If families choose to have play dates, it is best to have play dates with the same family or small group of friends during this period of social distancing. This means choosing another family or a couple of friends to play with during this time, and then only playing and socializing with them. That doesn’t mean, however, that one day your family plays with one small group of people, the next day they socialize with another small group, and the next day a different group entirely. Limiting interactions to these small groups can prevent the spread of illness. It’s important for parents to make sure that no one in the group shows symptoms of coronavirus or other illnesses.

Talk to your kids about the importance of giving others space right now. Kids love to touch and hug others, so remind them not to do that with people outside their family during social distancing. When kids do touch each other, remind them to thoroughly wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and to avoid touching their faces.

Families should take their children’s temperatures and ask how they are feeling before socializing with others. Children and adults should stay home and away from others when they have a fever (100.4°F or higher), are coughing or are short of breath. These are some of the symptoms of coronavirus, also called COVID-19. Families also should follow guidelines about limiting contact with others who have recently traveled outside Alaska. These are found under "COVID-19 Health Alerts and Mandates" on coronavirus.alaska.gov.

Does it matter if these play dates are inside or outside?

Play dates inside a house could be OK, Castrodale said, but the recommendations for small groups and limited interaction still apply.

“I think the bottom line is that play dates where children are not in close proximity are better, and that might be easier outside,” Castrodale said.

“It’s really maintaining distance from one another that’s most important.”

Should children limit playing or socializing with grandparents or other adults over age 60?

Castrodale said it’s wonderful to support children’s relationships with grandparents and older adults, but physical interaction between them right now should be limited or avoided. People 60 and older and those with chronic medical conditions, like heart disease and diabetes, face the highest chances for serious health problems related to coronavirus. 

“Part of this idea of social distancing is to protect our most vulnerable folks,” Castrodale said. 

So while it’s sad to limit face-to-face interactions with older loved ones, that might be the best thing for their health right now. Instead, use FaceTime or Skype to keep your children and grandparents in contact.

“Right now, the best way to love grandma is to send her a nice note, rather than to see her in person,” Castrodale said.

What can your kids do before, during and after playing to prevent the spread of illness?

Kids and parents should do several things to prevent getting and spreading illness:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song from start to finish twice. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that’s made with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover their own mouths and nose when coughing or sneezing, either through coughing into their elbows or ideally using a tissue. Then, immediately throw the tissue away and wash their hands.
  • Avoid touching their faces, especially with unwashed hands. That includes rubbing eyes or touching noses or mouths. 
  • Don’t share cups, water bottles, utensils or food.
  • Parents can frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that kids touch a lot, like doorknobs and toys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting homes with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections. This webpage includes a section for routine cleaning of households that states families can use household cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants on frequently touched surfaces. 

What should you do if your child becomes sick? 

Castrodale said the most important thing to remember is to keep sick children inside the home and away from others, including siblings. 

“Anyone who is sick needs to be isolated,” she said. Of course, a parent will need to provide care for that child, but siblings and others should be separated as much as possible. If parents believe the child needs medical care, they should call their provider before going in to the clinic, she said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is updating its coronavirus information every day. Please stay informed by visiting coronavirus.alaska.gov.


  
3/9/2020 8:27 AM

Healthy Kids Toddler Milk Graphic 030920.jpgMARCH 9, 2020 — A new drink started appearing in the grocery store aisle stocked for little kids. It’s called toddler milk or toddler formula, and it’s marketed as the “next step” or “follow-up” to formula. Some choose it for picky eaters. 

Toddler milk comes in bottles of liquid or containers of powder. Either way, your toddlers don’t need this drink that often contains added sugar and can be more expensive than regular milk. 

“Research shows that what children drink — from birth through age 5 — can have a big impact on their health,” said the recent Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids report. The report recommends serving only water and plain, whole cow’s milk to children after age 1, and water and fat-free or low-fat plain milk after age 2. 

Toddler milk is not recommended for children ages 5 and younger, stated the Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids report issued from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Heart Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Do toddlers really need a special milk? 

According to the report, toddler milks offer no nutritional benefit over other healthy drinks and foods. Toddler milks usually contain powdered milk, calorie-containing sweeteners, vegetable oil, and added vitamins and minerals, stated a related fact sheet. They can be higher in sodium but lower in protein than whole cow’s milk.

Jessilyn Dunegan is a Southcentral Foundation pediatric dietitian who works with parents of young children. 

“I have had many families ask about utilizing toddler formulas or milk supplements due to concerns the child will not otherwise be able to meet their nutritional requirement,” Dunegan said. “I find that adding these to the child’s diet often replaces calories and nutrients the child would get from whole foods instead.”

Picky eating, although stressful for parents, does not usually lead to a lack of vitamins and nutrients in young children. 

“Offering your child well-balanced meals and snacks that include 2-3 servings of dairy per day is enough to meet the nutritional requirements of normal developing toddlers, even for picky eaters,” Dunegan said.

Toddler milks have added sugar that little kids don’t need

Toddler milks do not add any nutritional value to a child’s diet, but they do add sugar. One of the main ingredients in toddler milks is sugar, usually in the form of corn syrup solids and other sweeteners. 

Drinks with added sugars — such as soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks and toddler milks — can increase a child’s risk of serious health problems. Drinking sugary beverages in early childhood can lead to cavities in teeth, weight gain and obesity, and other health problems that develop during a lifetime. 

Toddler milk is not “grown-up” infant formula 

Toddler milks are promoted as formula for children ages 1-3, but toddler milk and infant formula are not the same thing. The ingredients in infant formulas are regulated by the federal government to meet specific standards. Toddler milks do not need to meet the same standards as infant formula. In addition to added sugars, toddler milks typically contain added fats and salt (called sodium on the Nutrition Facts label). 

Serving young children foods and drinks with added sugar, fat and salt can lead to a lifelong preference for these tastes. Dietitians recommend that toddlers learn how to eat and enjoy healthy foods and drinks. If parents are concerned about their child’s nutrition, they should talk to their pediatrician or a dietitian and consider serving healthy foods and drinks instead of toddler milk. 

Find out more about toddler milks from the Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids Toddler Milks Fact Sheet.

Read more about the new Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids national recommendations for children ages 5 and younger.


collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-02</hide>February 2020 ‎(1)
  
2/10/2020 8:23 AM

Ski4Kids2 photo credit Jen Aist.JPGFEBRUARY 10, 2020 — Do you have little kids who are brand new to cross country skiing? What about kids who want to become better skiers, or kids who are ready to compete on a short, 3K race through the woods? 

They’ll all find something worth trying at the Ski 4 Kids event at Kincaid Park in Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Registration is now open online.

“Ski 4 Kids is open to all and is a great event for young skiers of all abilities,” said Matias Saari, Healthy Futures events coordinator. Healthy Futures supports Ski 4 Kids and other physical activity events across the state.

“In addition to skiing, kids can try out a variety of other winter activities. To ensure the event is open to as many children as possible, some kids are bused to Kincaid as part of a fun field trip.”

Kids up to age 14 can participate in the annual event that features skiing and more. Kids can try obstacle courses, a mock biathlon, snowshoeing, sit-skiing, ski jumping, orienteering and other activities. If they want to ski the 3K loop, they can complete it timed or untimed. Young children can ski an even shorter 1K loop. Parents are welcome to ski with their children. Each child who finishes the loop receives a Healthy Futures pin and customized buff. 

Ski4Kids3 photo credit Jen Aist.JPGRegistering ahead of the event is required for the timed ski race and can only be completed online. Otherwise, kids can register on Feb. 29, as well as pick up their bibs between noon and 1:15 p.m. at the Kincaid Chalet. Then they can visit any of the stations to try new winter activities. The stations will be found around the ski stadium and stay open until 3:30 p.m. The timed and untimed ski races begin in the stadium at 1:30 p.m.

Ski 4 Kids is a partnership between Anchorage Parks and Recreation, the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage (NSAA), and Healthy Futures. There is no set participation fee, but the organizers welcome donations that help all children have access to cross country ski programs and equipment. Proceeds go toward the NSAA grant program that provides ski equipment to schools and youth groups. Funds also cover transportation costs so more than 200 kids from 11 different schools are able to participate in the event.

Children who are also participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge can count the ski race and other wintertime activities toward their 60 minutes of daily activity on their Challenge log. Go online​ to see the list of more than 130 elementary schools across Alaska that are completing the Challenge this winter and spring.

Photographs courtesy of Jen Aist 


collapse Published Month : <hide>2020-01</hide>January 2020 ‎(1)
  
1/27/2020 9:20 AM

PLAAYDAY2019.JPGJANUARY 27, 2020 — Alaska kids: Your next dance partner may be in Juneau, Copper Center, maybe even another state. 

This is the fourth year in a row local and statewide organizations have worked together to organize PLAAY Day — that day once a year when children complete a half hour of organized physical activity all at the same time across Alaska. During the morning of Feb. 20, 2020, children will be learning easy dance moves. They’ll dance in their schools while hundreds of other kids dance at the same time in schools and classrooms many miles away. Elementary schools in Alaska and across the country can sign up now using a simple online database.

“PLAAY Day is a unique and meaningful event to connect adults, kids and cultures across Alaska and the United States,” said Wally Wilson, PLAAY Day director.

PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. Our partners, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures program, organize PLAAY Day every year to help Alaska children get active for good health. 

This year, PLAAY Day will begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 20, with a trio of University of Alaska Anchorage students leading a room of children in several different types of dances. They’ll start with Alaska Native dances and then move to high-energy modern dances like salsa and hip hop. This group will be demonstrating the dances at the Special Olympics Alaska building in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage. GCI and Denali Media will be broadcasting that demonstration live through Facebook and YouTube Live to participating schools. That will allow entire schools or individual classrooms across Alaska to join and for students to dance in their own gyms, classrooms, recreation centers and common spaces. All children will be able to participate at their appropriate levels. An Anchorage School District physical education teacher will be modifying the dances to include students of all abilities, Wilson said.

Schools that sign up for PLAAY Day will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer. Interested schools and groups can register as an entire school, a classroom, a home school or an organization. Registration will remain open through Feb. 20, but schools can receive more help connecting to the live event if they sign up sooner.

Another event in February focused on improving the health of Alaska children is the PLAAY Summit. It is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14, and Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, on the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium campus in Anchorage. The two-day summit is designed to help teachers, medical professionals, coaches and other leaders focus on improving youth health and emphasize the importance of daily physical activity.

Adam Crum, Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, will give the keynote address at noon Feb. 14. He will talk about the overall state of health for Alaska children. Dr. Jay Butler will discuss health harms related to e-cigarettes. Butler is Alaska’s former Chief Medical Officer and the current Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other speakers will talk about heart health, mental health and more. You can go online to register for the PLAAY Summit. Professional development credit and contact hours will be available. The event is in Anchorage, but those outside Anchorage can participate through videoconference after registering online at www.plaay.org.

Many organizations are partners of PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit. They include hospitals, pediatric clinics, tribal health organizations, nonprofits, school districts, the university, state departments, media groups and businesses. To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Harlow Robinson, Alaska Sports Hall of Fame executive director, at harlow@alaskasportshall.org. 

Photograph courtesy of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame


collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-12</hide>December 2019 ‎(1)
  
12/17/2019 8:43 AM

20-PAN-0683-Soda Bottle Labels-3A-HP2.jpgDECEMBER 17, 2019 — Have you ever wanted to know how much added sugar is in your yogurt, breakfast cereal or beverage? Starting Jan. 1, 2020, you can know the answer by reading the new line on the Nutrition Facts label called “Includes Added Sugars.” 

After more than 20 years, this label is getting a makeover. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is updating the Nutrition Facts label with the new line for added sugars and other changes to make sure families have access to useful and accurate nutrition information about the foods and drinks they’re consuming.  

You may have already seen the new label on packages, but large food and drink companies need to update their labels by Jan. 1. 

“The new label is definitely easier to read,” said Jennifer Johnson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with the State of Alaska Family Nutrition Program​. “The big change is the ‘Added Sugars’ line. That will be so helpful for people trying to reduce the amount of added sugar they’re consuming for better health.”

Look for changes on the label

With the old label, it was impossible to know how much sugar was found naturally and how much sugar was from added sweeteners. Added sugars​ include those sugars that are added during the processing of foods and drinks, such as white table sugar (sucrose), brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup and honey. For example, plain white milk has lactose, a natural sugar, but not added sugars. Similarly, 100% fruit juice has fructose, a natural sugar, but not added sugars. On the other hand, chocolate milk contains both natural lactose and added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup or sucrose. Fruit-flavored drinks can contain a small amount of natural fructose and a large amount of added sugars.

The new, updated label lists grams of added sugars on a separate line under “total carbohydrates.” The new Nutrition Facts label will help families see exactly how many grams of sugars have been added to their foods and drinks. 

Guidelines recommend limiting daily added sugar

Added sugar typically means extra calories, but little or no healthy nutrients. People can fill up on sugary foods and drinks rather than eating other, healthier foods. Too much added sugar can lead to cavities, unhealthy weight gain, and type 2 diabetes — even in young kids. 

For the best health, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar you eat and drink to less than 10 percent of daily calories. For example, a 4-year-old child should limit added sugar to about 32 grams each day. There are four grams of sugar in each teaspoon of sugar, so the recommended limit for this child is fewer than 8 teaspoons of added sugar each day. 

Just one drink can take children — even adults — over that daily sugar limit. For example, a 10-ounce fruit drink with 8 teaspoons of added sugar has more sugar than little kids should have in one day. Just one 20-ounce soda with 65 grams (16 teaspoons) of added sugar has more sugar than most children and adults should have in a day.

New label also changes serving sizes

The new Nutrition Facts label is also changing serving sizes and servings per container. These are now based on the amount of food that people typically eat at one time, which is usually more than the old suggested serving amount. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of soda will be labeled as one serving, since people are likely to drink the whole bottle at one time. Be sure to check the serving size and the number of servings per container when comparing calories in different foods or determining the amount of sugar in a drink. 

The Nutrition Facts label helps families make informed decisions about the foods and beverages they eat and drink. The updated label will make it easier to choose foods and drinks that contribute to lifelong healthy eating habits.

Go online to learn more

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collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-11</hide>November 2019 ‎(2)
  
11/25/2019 12:34 PM

Cropped fruit juice image for Nov 2019 blog.PNGNovember 25, 2019 — Parents want to serve healthy foods and drinks to their kids. 100% fruit juice sounds healthy. It’s just the juice from different types of fruits — apples, oranges or grapes. 

There’s no added sugar in 100% fruit juice, but new national recommendations and local dietitians recommend limiting it for children

We talked with Pam Horan, a registered dietitian at the Providence Medical Group Pediatric Subspecialty Clinic in Anchorage, to learn more about juice. She works with families of children who are trying to maintain a healthy weight. She also works with children who have diabetes. Horan said she focuses on helping these families make changes that support lifelong healthy eating goals that include eating fruits and vegetables every day and limiting added sugar. 

Horan said juice is a source of liquid calories and sugar — even though it’s natural sugar and not added sugar. Read Horan’s answers about juice and other drinks below. 

How much 100% fruit juice can children have in a day?

Juice is not recommended at all for children under 1 years old. Whole fruit is really the preferred source for daily fruit intake. But if you choose to serve juice, the upper limit is no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) a day for children between 1–3 years old. For children between 4 and 6 years old, it’s no more than 6 ounces (3/4 cup) a day and for children who are 7 years old or older, no more than 8 ounces a day (1 cup).

That’s not much fruit juice! Do you have suggestions for other healthy drinks that parents and caregivers can serve children? 

At mealtimes, drink a glass of milk or water. During the day, try infused water. Infused water looks pretty and tastes great. It allows you to get a hint of flavor in your water without creating a high sugar drink. To make your own infused water take some cut-up fruit (fresh or frozen) and/or herbs and add them to your water. The longer the fruit sits in your water before you drink it, the more flavor the drink will have. For a stronger flavor, allow the fruit and water to sit overnight in the refrigerator. 

What are some simple recipes for infused water?

Make your own infused water at home with some of these popular flavor combinations:

  • Strawberry and basil
  • Orange and blueberries 
  • Kiwi strawberry or kiwi lime
  • Cucumber mint or cucumber strawberry
  • Lemon lime 
  • Mixed berries
  • Watermelon or mashed cantaloupe
  • Pineapple mint

Don’t be afraid to play with different fruit combinations that you like. For maximum flavor and food safety, make sure you wash your fruit before cutting. Infused water can safely stay in your fridge for up to 3 days if the fruit has been washed. Be aware though that the fruit starts to get mushy within 12–24 hours. 

Is the natural sugar found in whole fruit and 100% fruit juice better for you than other sugars, like white table sugar or brown rice syrup?

100% fruit juice may be a bit better than just having a spoon of any sugar, but it still can't satisfy your hunger or provide all the nutritional benefits like a piece of fruit can. A whole piece of fruit provides fiber for healthy digestion and cholesterol control, vitamins and minerals that help our body function and cancer fighting chemicals called antioxidants. Whole fruit is really the preferred source for daily fruit intake. 

Why do pediatricians and dietitians recommend limiting 100% fruit juice for children?

Sugar. Sugar plays a large role in childhood obesity and dental decay. A small daily intake of juice has not been shown to contribute to obesity in children, but can still contribute to cavities. If a person wants to drink juice, they can as long as they stay within the recommended daily limits. They would also benefit from a glass of water afterwards to rinse the sugar off of their teeth. 

Many drinks say “Contains Fruit Juice” or “Organic” on the front of the bottle. Does that mean these are healthy drinks?

No. A drink with this label may only be a small amount of actual fruit juice and then be filled with sugar, water, dyes and other "flavors." "Organic" labeling only refers to the process of growing and producing a food item free of artificial pesticides and fertilizer. Being "Organic" cannot be used in any other way to determine if a food item is healthy. 

The labels on drinks can be confusing for families. Some beverages are called fruit drinks or fruit cocktails. Others are 100% fruit juice. Are those the same types of drinks?

Fruit drink, cocktails and punches are typically a mixture of water, sugar and some type of flavoring. They may contain little or no actual fruit. To help us stay within the recommended daily sugar limits listed above, water and milk should be the liquids that we drink on a daily basis (mostly water). 

Read more about the new Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids national recommendations for children ages 5 and younger.

  
11/14/2019 11:58 AM

Mini-Graphic-2-5y HER blog.jpg

NOVEMBER 14, 2019 — This fall, four leading health organizations shared a new report focused on what drinks to serve to little kids to help them grow up healthy. All four organizations agreed:  Sugary drinks are not recommended for children ages 5 and younger.

In this report, sugary drinks include the following beverages:

  • Soda
  • Fruit drinks and ades (like lemonade), which can be in liquid or powdered form
  • Sports and energy drinks
  • Sweetened water

The report also recommends not serving little children flavored milk, like chocolate or strawberry.

“People are born with a preference for sweet tastes, and the early years are an important time for forming life-long flavor and food preferences,” stated the online report​. “Minimizing children’s exposure to sweet-tasting foods and drinks early on could be a strategy for helping to shape their taste buds to prefer less sweetness throughout life.” 

Sugary drinks can lead to many health problems

These recommendations for what drinks to serve and not serve to little children followed a review of scientific research and a consensus by four health organizations: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association. These organizations published a report that is part of the Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids project run through the national Healthy Eating Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Alaska’s Play Every Day campaign reinforces these national recommendations in its communication materials for families, schools, child care centers and health care providers. 

Research shows strong evidence of health harms linked to sugary drinks. Drinking these beverages in early childhood can lead to cavities in teeth, weight gain and obesity, and other health problems that develop during a lifetime. Instead, the report prioritizes serving two drinks: water and plain, white milk. 

“Drinks with added sugars offer little to no nutritional benefits, often take the place of healthier foods and drinks in a person’s diet, and don’t make you feel full,” stated a Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids fact sheet

Summary of the new recommendations

The new report includes recommendations broken down for different ages of children and different types of drinks​. Below are the drink recommendations for children ages 2–5. The report suggests talking with your child’s health care provider to tailor these recommendations to the child’s specific health needs. 

Serve water or milk to children

Water: 

  • Children ages 2–3 should drink 1–4 cups of water each day. 
  • Children ages 4–5 should drink 1 ½–5 cups of water each day. 

According to the report, the amount of water children need will depend on their activity, the weather, and how much fluids they are getting from other drinks and foods. 

Milk: 

  • Children ages 2–3 should drink up to 2 cups a day of plain, pasteurized fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Children ages 4–5 should drink up to 2 ½​ cups a day.

Limit serving juice 

100% fruit juice: 

Only serve 100% fruit juice if your child is not eating enough whole fruit. If you choose to serve juice:

  • Children ages 2–3 should drink no more than ½ cup (4 ounces) of 100% fruit juice per day. 
  • Children ages 4–5 should drink no more than ½ cup–¾ cup (4–6 ounces) per day.

The report stressed that these recommendations for drinking juice are upper limits for the day, not minimum requirements. These daily limits are recommended because even 100% fruit juice can lead to cavities and unhealthy weight gain, the report said. 

The report noted that 100% juice is not the same thing as other drinks with “fruit” or “juice” in the name. Drinks that have 100% juice do not contain added sugar. Drinks that say “fruit” or “juice” may have little if any juice and could be mainly water and added sugar. Ounce for ounce, a fruit drink can have as much added sugar as soda. 

Avoid serving drinks with added sugar, low-calorie sweeteners and caffeine

Parents of little children should avoid serving the following drinks:

  • Sugary drinks, including all of those listed earlier
  • Flavored milks, like chocolate or strawberry
  • “Transition” or “weaning” formulas that can be called toddler milks, growing-up milks or follow-up formulas
  • Drinks with caffeine, such as soda and energy drinks
  • Low-calorie sweetened drinks, often called diet or light drinks that are sweetened with stevia, sucralose or other artificial sweeteners
  • Plant-based or non-dairy milks, such as almond, rice or oat milks. With the exception of fortified soy milk, these alternatives can lack important nutrients that are found in cow’s milk.

“Unsweetened and fortified non-dairy milks may be a good choice if a child is allergic to dairy, lactose intolerant, or is in a family that does not eat dairy products,” the online report stated. “Be sure to consult with your health care provider when choosing a plant-based/non-dairy milk.”

Go online to learn more

The complete set of recommendations are found online at the Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids website.

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collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-10</hide>October 2019 ‎(2)
  
10/21/2019 9:05 AM

Wellness Initiative photos submitted by ASD V1.jpgOCTOBER 21, 2019 — Would increasing the amount of time kids get to eat lunch mean they eat more, healthy foods and aren’t hungry in the afternoon? 

Would increasing the amount of recess time improve their behavior in the classroom?

And is it possible for Anchorage elementary schools to do both — increase lunch and recess time — and still find ways to meet other requirements in a school day? 

This school year, the Anchorage School District will be evaluating how a new pilot project to increase lunch and recess time in participating elementary schools affects everything from students’ hunger and stress levels, to teachers’ assessment of behavior in their classrooms, to parents’ perceptions of their children’s behavior and hunger levels after school. 

"The Anchorage School District and the parent organization ASD60 created the Wellness Initiative pilot program to look at the benefits and challenges of increased physical activity throughout the day and increased time for students to eat,” said Anchorage School District Deputy Superintendent Mark Stock.  “We have 21 elementary schools in the voluntary pilot program that will collect data throughout the year.”

Starting the Wellness Initiative in Anchorage

Starting this fall, the 21 schools participating in this pilot began increasing the total amount of time for lunch and recess each day. The pilot, called the Wellness Initiative, began after a group of local parents raised concerns during recent years that young kids in Anchorage schools did not have enough time to eat a healthy lunch, nor be physically active during the school day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend children have at least 20 minutes to be seated and eating lunch at school. 

“We have to make time for their health and well-being,” said Carey Carpenter, an Anchorage mother of two elementary school students. Carpenter helped start the parent organization called ASD60 — ASD for Anchorage School District and 60 for the total minutes these parents want allotted for lunch and recess every day.

About one-third of ASD elementary schools voluntarily signed up for the pilot this school year, agreeing to provide the following every day: 

  • 10 minutes seated time for breakfast (if the school provides a breakfast)
  • 20 minutes to be seated and eating lunch
  • 54 minutes of physical activity (90% of the national recommendation), which includes 30 minutes of recess and a combination of physical education, school-wide activities and in-classroom activities

Carpenter said the ASD60 parents wanted more lunch and recess for all elementary students, but were particularly concerned about the effect brief lunch and recess periods had on Anchorage’s most vulnerable children. For children in families who earn low incomes, breakfast and lunch offered through school may provide the majority of their calories every day. If these children don’t have enough time to eat, they miss out on most of their nutrition that day. 

“We’re really hurting the kids that need it the most,” Carpenter said.

The same issue applies to time for physical activity, she said. Families with lower incomes may not have the ability or funds to sign up their children for afterschool sports clubs or leagues. That may limit their children’s activity to only what they get at school during the day. 

Increasing time during the school day for eating lunch and being active may lead to improved performance in the classroom. The CDC published a report called “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, Including Physical Education, and Academic Performance.” This review of research showed a link between physical activity and improved grades and academic achievement. It stated that physical activity can improve attention, concentration and behavior in the classroom. 

“There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores,” the CDC report stated. 

Evaluating the pilot 

News about this pilot project reached across the country last spring, sparking the interest of Harvard professor, Dr. Juliana Cohen. Cohen’s area of expertise is studying school-based interventions related to lunch and recess time. When she saw a Google alert about the ASD pilot, she reached out to the district to see if she could help evaluate it. 

“I’m volunteering my time for this, just because I think this is just a wonderful opportunity to monitor the effectiveness of this type of intervention,” said Cohen, an adjunct assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and assistant professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. 

Mike Scott, assistant principal at Mears Middle School in Anchorage, is leading ASD’s evaluation. Cohen is working with ASD to study the pilot in several different ways.

The evaluation will help ASD decide whether or not to adopt longer recess and lunch periods for all Anchorage elementary schools during future school years. There are several planned components for the evaluation. One involves teachers at participating and nonparticipating elementary schools. These teachers will voluntarily fill out a survey to assess children’s behavior and energy levels in their classrooms. They will fill out these surveys in the fall and again in the spring, helping evaluators compare student behavior in participating versus nonparticipating schools. 

Evaluators also plan to give brief, voluntary surveys to students to take after lunch and recess. The surveys ask about stress, happiness and hunger levels. Cohen said the evaluation team is looking into adding a few questions to the district’s annual parent survey that comes out during the second semester. These questions would focus on parents’ perceptions of their children’s behavior and hunger level after school. 

Cohen said the final piece of evaluation would include interviews and focus groups to learn more from principals, teachers, cafeteria staff and parents. This will help examine the process of implementing the pilot: what was successful during the pilot, what didn’t work well, and what are the recommendations for improvement if the pilot continues or expands? 

“Is this initiative benefiting students?” Cohen asked. “Is it something that works for this community? Is it something that should be expanded throughout the district?”

Receiving early feedback from families

The pilot just started, but some parents are reporting positive changes for their children. One Anchorage mom called the extra lunch time a “big win” for her son. 

“My son is at Rabbit Creek Elementary and is loving the extra recess and lunch time,” said Hannah Stream. “It was definitely a highlight to the start of the year. Last year I believe he came home with unfinished food almost every day and often said he didn’t have time. This year, lunch has been completed every day so far and he says he has enough time.”

Jenny Fawcett said this is the first year her daughter, a third-grader at Trailside Elementary, has had enough time to eat her entire lunch.  

“She has more energy in the afternoon and a more positive attitude and behavior,” Fawcett said. “The extra recess time gives her extended time to play and get her wiggles out.”

Crystal Mitchell said her daughter in sixth grade has appreciated the extra outside recess time at Ravenwood Elementary in Eagle River. Mitchell noted that the stress level has increased over the years as her daughter’s classes require more attention.

“It’s important to have a moment of clarity for kids to just step away to be kids,” Mitchell said. “It’s important for them to have consistency and the ability to have play time.”

The pilot will continue through the remainder of this school year. During the coming months, the district’s staff and partners will continue the evaluation to study how the pilot is running and look for possible impacts of more lunch and recess time. Read more about the Anchorage School District Wellness Initiative online. ASD60 also can be followed on Facebook

Photograph courtesy of the Anchorage School District



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10/8/2019 7:53 AM

Anchorage Play Map_Cover-page-001 (1).jpgAlaska is well-known for open spaces that make it possible for all kinds of outdoor activities. Anchorage alone has a few hundred parks, 11,000 acres of parkland, and more than 250 miles of trails and greenbelts. Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program partnered with the Anchorage Park Foundation to distribute a new map and guide so families can learn what parks are nearby, how to get there, and the types of play opportunities available. 

The new Anchorage Playground Map and Inclusive Play Guide includes vibrant photos that highlight the park designs, giving kids a glimpse of the excitement they can expect there. Anchorage parks provide fun opportunities like sliding, climbing, spinning, swinging, and exploring nooks and towers. Some parks offer experiences for many senses, including musical play. The guide gives parents details they need to prepare for taking the family to the park. It mentions if the park has picnic tables and benches, if it’s close to woods or water, and if the playground equipment is designed for children of certain age ranges. Studying the map and guide together as a family gets everyone involved in planning the next adventure. 

“My husband and I wanted to get the kids out, and this map gave us the ability to choose a park near our home and make a family day of it,” said Alyssa Marizan, a local mom of three young children. “Not only did the kids play, but we were able to be active with them and had a blast.” 

Guiding families to nearby places for outdoor play can help them meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendations that school-age children get 60 minutes of activity every day and adults get 150 minutes every week. Many Alaskans fall short of that daily and weekly recommended activity. A lack of physical activity can increase the chances of unhealthy weight gain, which is linked with serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Two out of three Alaska adults are overweight or obese, and one out of three Alaska kids is above a healthy weight. Taking the whole family to the park helps everyone be physically active and get closer to their activity goals.

Dave Green Park.jpg

The Anchorage Park Foundation continues to help build playgrounds designed with everyone in mind. While this new map lists all the parks in Anchorage, it gives special mention to parks that provide opportunities for children and adults of all abilities. These parks are often called “inclusive parks,” and they include playground equipment that allows children of all ages and abilities to play with their peers. These parks also have parking stalls that are Americans with Disabilities Act accessible.

“Climbing, swinging, sliding, spinning, these parks offer the best new ways to play,” said Beth Nordlund, Executive Director of the Anchorage Park Foundation. “Not only are they more accessible to all, they are also way more fun! These free guides are flying off our shelves, so please make sure to come get yours.” 

While supplies last, the map is being distributed by the foundation and their inclusive play partners free of charge at park and recreational events around Anchorage. For more information about inclusive play and the maps, visit https://anchorageparkfoundation.org/programs/inclusiveplay​.

Photographs courtesy of the Anchorage Park Foundation


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collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-09</hide>September 2019 ‎(3)
  
9/30/2019 8:38 AM

Walk to School Stock photo.jpgWalking to school has many benefits for Alaska kids and their communities. It can help students move more and do better in school. Walking also can reduce traffic in neighborhoods, and that can make it safer and easier to get to school.  

Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, is Walk to School Day. Kids across Alaska will be making a special effort that day to walk to their schools, but some local families make walking to school a daily habit.

 “I walk my son to and from his elementary school every day,” said John Angst, father of a Rabbit Creek Elementary School student in Anchorage. “We always really look forward to our walks to and from school. It’s a great way to get going in the morning and a nice way to unwind after school. It gives us a chance to talk without the distractions of TVs, phones and computers.”

Move more, feel better and perform better

Walking to school helps children get closer to the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity that kids need for the best health. Daily activity improves growth and development, as well as heart health. It makes muscles and bones stronger. A walk to and from school likely doesn’t take an hour, but the benefits add up over time.

“Walking to school provides students an opportunity to activate their bodies and brains in preparation for a great start to the school day,” said Melanie Sutton, curriculum coordinator for the Anchorage School District Health and Physical Education Department.

An hour of daily activity might sound like a lot, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say every bit of activity counts — no matter how short. That means kids can add the time it takes to walk to and from school to other activities, like the minutes they spend being active at recess, in gym class, or playing with their friends and family. 

Walking to school could help children at school, too. The national guidelines say that regular activity improves memory, attention and performance in the classroom. Kids who get regular physical activity can learn better and improve their grades.

Promoting safety for walkers

Simple strategies make it safer for children to walk to school. Vision Zero Anchorage is an initiative to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries for all road users. Communities like Anchorage are making it safer to walk by enforcing low speed limits in school zones, using marked or signaled street crossings, designing safe and convenient sidewalks or paths between neighborhoods and schools, and adding street lighting. 

Drivers can help keep walkers safe by not driving distracted. 

“When driving, it’s much safer for everyone if we put down our phones, and leave the controls, displays and navigation alone,” said Dawn Groth, physical activity and nutrition specialist with the State of Alaska. “Let’s pay attention to what is going on around us.”

During recent school years, the Rabbit Creek Elementary School PTA in Anchorage called for a cell phone ban while driving to protect their students from distracted drivers. This led to similar requests from other local parents, teachers and students. As a result, during the summer of 2019, Anchorage passed an ordinance making it illegal to drive in active school zones or grounds while talking on a hand-held mobile communication device, such as a cell phone, smart phone, tablet or any similar device. School zones where the speed limit is always 25 MPH or less are active between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Other school zones are active when school zone lights are flashing. Parents picking up their kids can use their devices once their car is parked. The penalty for using a cell phone in a school zone is a $500 fine. 

Take steps to keep children safe

Everyone can help ensure children get to and from school safely. 

Drivers:

  • Do not use your smart phone or device while driving, including while stopped at a light or stop sign. 
  • Pay attention. Look for and stop for children.
  • Slow down, especially in school zones, intersections and places kids walk and play.
  • Leave the controls, displays and navigation in your car alone.
  • Drink your coffee or do your grooming when you reach your destination.
  • Do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Parents:

  • Be a role model for good driving habits.
  • Ask children who are walking to put away mobile devices that can distract them.
  • Put reflective stickers or materials on outer clothing and bags of children.

Kids:

  • Walk on sidewalks and use crosswalks. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing oncoming traffic.
  • Wear blinking lights.
  • Always look left, right, then left again before crossing any street.

For more information on ways to promote safe walking to school, visit https://www.transportation.gov/mission/health/Safe-Routes-to-School-Programs.

  
9/18/2019 9:09 AM

Fruit Drink Label with Organic and Vitamin C.jpgSEPTEMBER 18, 2019 — It’s been a long week, and you’ve made it to the store to buy groceries for your family. You’ve got a toddler in the cart and a grocery list in your hand. 

You’re looking for convenient, healthy drinks for your little kids. You’re in the drink aisle and spot a bottle that says “Cranberry Raspberry Drink.” The front of the label also says “Organic” and “100% Vitamin C.” Plus the bottle size is small enough to fit into your preschooler’s backpack or lunchbox. 

Before you add that drink to the cart, turn that bottle, pouch, box or can around. The back of the label will tell you the truth about what’s actually in that drink. 

Many drinks in the grocery store appear healthier than they are, based on the words and pictures shown on the labels. But many of these drinks aren’t the best options for your toddlers, preschoolers or older children. The healthiest drinks for them — and your whole family — are water or milk.

“Ounce for ounce, fruit drinks can be hiding just as much added sugar as soda,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager for Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program​. “Serving these sugary drinks to your kids from a very young age can increase their chances for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease years from now. Serving healthy drinks like water or milk now, plus daily physical activity, can prevent these serious diseases that last a lifetime.”

National recommendations give limits for daily sugar

A drink can have a fruit in its name and NOT be made with any fruit juice. Some fruit drinks have a small amount of fruit juice, but they’re still filled with a large amount of added sugar. If sugar or any other sweetener is listed in the first three ingredients, your drink is likely loaded with sugar.

For the best health, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar your kids eat and drink to less than 10 percent of their daily calories. For preschool-age children, that means limiting added sugar to fewer than 8 teaspoons a day. Small drinks like fruit drinks can be packed with that much sugar, even more.

Play Every Day is sharing new videos to help show the large amount of sugar in fruit drinks, and to give examples of how labels on these drinks can be confusing to families looking for healthy options. Its Fruit Drink PSA focuses on those labels and explains how the added sugar in small fruit drinks can add up to serious health problems over time. Another 30-second video shows that these small fruit drinks can have the same amount of sugar as 8 mini doughnuts. Serving water or milk instead can cut out a lot of added sugar each day.  

Look out for other sugary drinks, too

Other drinks also contain a lot of added sugar. A label on a vitamin drink may say it’s loaded with vitamins, but it’s also loaded with sugar. A drink can contain 100% vitamin C and still have added sugar along with the added vitamins. As an example, a 20-ounce bottle of a vitamin drink can have 8 teaspoons of added sugar. 

Sports drinks are sold as beverages to rehydrate you after physical activity, but water is all that kids (and adults) need after they get out and play. A 20-ounce sports drink can have 9 teaspoons of added sugar. Water has none. And what about that orange powdered mix that looks like it could be served with breakfast? Mixing up a powdered drink for your child is like stirring sugar into water. An 8-ounce glass of a powdered mix can have almost 6 teaspoons of added sugar.

Organic drinks may sound healthy, but that’s not always the case. Organic drinks often have the same amount of sugar as non-organic drinks. Both organic and non-organic drinks with added sugar can lead to health problems in little children.

Learn more about serving healthy drinks to your family

You may have young kids at home, take care of them in a pediatric or dental clinic, or tend to them in child care centers or preschools. Alaska’s Play Every Day campaign has educational materials to help learn more about the large amounts of sugar hiding in many drinks, the health harms related to that added sugar, and ways to make it easier to serve healthier drinks at home, at school and on the go. All of these materials are free and available to download online. Looking for print copies? Please contact playeveryday@alaska.gov to request materials related to physical activity, sugary drinks or healthy drinks. 

  
9/3/2019 9:09 AM

Jamborees Photo 2 Courtesy of Healthy Futures.jpgSEPTEMBER 3, 2019 — When the leaves start falling, Alaska kids start racing through the trails. 

On several days this month, thousands of elementary students from Anchorage to Fairbanks will be running through the wooded trails during the annual Cross Country Jamborees and similar fun runs.

The Anchorage School District is organizing three running Jamborees, and the North Star Borough School District in Fairbanks is organizing four races. The Jamborees will wrap up by the end of September, but Anchorage parents and children will have weekly opportunities to keep running as a family through the end of October. The popular fall running tradition called the Tuesday Night Race series begins on Sept. 10, 2019. The series continues on different trail systems throughout Anchorage every Tuesday through Oct. 29, 2019.

Long history of fall fun runs in Anchorage 

The free running Jamborees in Anchorage go back almost three decades. This year, the Anchorage School District Health and Physical Education (PE) Department will partner with the Healthy Futures program, Play Every Day​, local athletes, and others to organize several Jamborees in North Anchorage, South Anchorage and the Beach Lake area of Eagle River. Several thousand Anchorage kids across the city are expected to participate. 

“The elementary school Jamborees are a great opportunity for kids of all abilities to get some exercise in a festive atmosphere,” said Matias Saari, Healthy Futures event support coordinator.  

Many children are getting ready for the fun runs by participating in their schools’ running clubs. Elementary students will run different distances, depending on their ages. The race course length ranges from about ½ mile to 1 mile. All kids will receive a Healthy Futures pin when they reach the finish line, Saari said.

Like in past years, participating children and their families will be able to stay hydrated at a special “H2O 2GO” water trailer from Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility (AWWU). The trailer has multiple drinking fountains and water bottle fill-up taps for thirsty runners and observers.

Dates, times and locations for Anchorage Jamborees

Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees:

  • North Anchorage Jamboree — Thursday, Sept. 19, starting at 5:30 p.m., with an optional walk-through of the race course beginning at 5 p.m. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Bartlett High School. For more information, contact Benjamin Elbow, Rogers Park Elementary physical education (PE) teacher, at elbow_benjamin@asdk12.org.

  • South Anchorage Jamboree — Saturday, Sept. 21, starting at 10 a.m., with an optional walk-through of the race course beginning at 9:30 a.m. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Service High School. For more information, contact David Hall, Chinook Elementary PE teacher, at hall_david@asdk12.org.

  • Beach Lake (Eagle River) Jamboree — Thursday, Sept. 26, starting at 5 p.m. The Jamboree will be held at the Chugiak High School trails. For more information, contact Caela Nielsen, Ravenwood Elementary PE teacher, at nielsen_caela@asdk12.org.

Elementary students can attend any of the Anchorage Jamborees, regardless of where they live or where their elementary schools are located. Parents are encouraged to pre-register their children for the Jamborees at their schools. All children must have a signed waiver before participating in the event. Ask your child’s physical education teacher for more information about the Anchorage Jamboree in your area.

Dates, times and locations for Fairbanks running events

Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming running events in the Fairbanks area:

  • Birch Hill Recreation Area — Thursday, Sept. 5, starting at 5:30 p.m. This event is hosted by U-Park Elementary School. 
  • Chena Lakes Recreation Area — Thursday, Sept. 12, starting at 5:30 p.m.
  • Salcha Elementary School — Thursday, Sept. 19, starting at 5:30 p.m. This event is hosted by Salcha School.
  • Chena Lakes Recreation Area — Thursday, Sept. 26, starting at 5:30 p.m. This event is hosted by Watershed and Two Rivers schools.

For more information about Fairbanks events, contact Norm Davis at norm.davis@k12northstar.org.  

Photograph courtesy of Healthy Futures

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collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-08</hide>August 2019 ‎(2)
  
8/19/2019 10:40 AM

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpgAUGUST 19, 2019 — Schools open this week for thousands of children from Juneau to Anchorage to Bethel.  More than 115 elementary schools in 23 school districts across Alaska are getting ready for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge ​that starts Sunday, Sept. 1. Many schools in rural communities are participating, thanks in part to organizations like the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).

Aqqaluk Elementary School in Noorvik is ready for the free challenge that has students logging their physical activity each month. So is Chief Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok. Kids will be doing the Challenge in Fort Yukon in the Interior, Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula, and White Mountain at the end of the Iditarod Trail. 

Recruiting champions to support the Challenge in rural Alaska

This year, ANTHC is partnering with Healthy Futures to expand the number of Healthy Futures champions who support the Challenge in their rural, often remote communities. Champions can be more than teachers and coaches, said Dana Diehl, Wellness and Prevention Director at ANTHC. They can be parents, young adults looking for ways to help their communities, and people who work in health education and prevention at local clinics.

“I think one of the things that we like about Healthy Futures is it doesn’t have to be organized physical activity,” Diehl said. Participating students can count all kinds of activities, not just organized sports. 

“In the rural areas, that’s especially important because there are so many opportunities to get activity in the outdoors,” Diehl said. That includes Alaska Native dancing, hunting for moose, picking berries, fishing and more, she said.

Diehl lives and works in Anchorage, but she grew up in Aniak along the Kuskokwim River — the home of Auntie Mary Nicoli Elementary School. Teachers at this small school regularly sign up to participate in the Challenge. Diehl said she’s excited that her hometown school commits time to promoting physical activity and the Healthy Futures Challenge.

“The village is on a river, so there are all kinds of things you can do on the river – like fishing,” she said. “It’s across from all kinds of rolling hills where you can go berry picking.” 

Families can bike, walk and run near the village’s airstrip, she said. 

“There are all kinds of opportunities to get out and play around Aniak.”

Completing the Challenge: Logging 60 minutes of activity at least 15 days a month

The free Healthy Futures Challenge runs each fall and spring for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. Students can count active time in gym class and during recess. They receive a prize each month for completing their activity log. 

This school year, Play Every Day, Healthy Futures and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are working together to share a 30-second video to encourage more schools across Alaska to sign up for the Challenge. The video also encourages parents to reach out to their children’s schools to support the Challenge. It features children being active in all kinds of ways in communities across Alaska, from Utqiagvik to Unalakleet to Bethel, Wasilla, Petersburg and Sitka.

Adding new prizes for the Healthy Futures Challenge 

New this school year is a set of updated Healthy Futures prizes. Each month of the Challenge, students who complete a log will receive a colored gel art pen and a matching colored sticker. They can put the sticker next to their name on a classroom poster to recognize their participation, said Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures Coordinator.

Another addition is an end-of-year raffle for a grand prize. Students will get a raffle ticket after completing one month of the Challenge. They will write their name on the ticket and place it in a grand prize box supplied by the Healthy Futures program. At the end of the school year, school staff will draw a ticket for a grand prize. The winning student at each school will be able to choose from a menu of prizes, including a Healthy Futures Champion hoodie, disc golf set, cornhole set, and other outdoor games, Loran said.

Consistent participation in this year’s Challenge will give students better chances for winning a grand prize, while also encouraging them to build the habit of daily physical activity. There are six months of the Challenge in a school year: three in the fall and three in the spring. For each month of participation, students will get new pens in different colors and raffle tickets to sign and drop in the box. Students who complete more months of the challenge this school year will receive more tickets, which means more chances of winning the grand prize. 

Elementary school coordinators will be entered into a grand prize drawing based on the percentage of student participation in their schools. Schools with high participation also receive banners to hang in their gyms to recognize their students’ commitment to physical activity.  


  
8/5/2019 8:54 AM

​AUGUST 5, 2019 — Alaska parents say that one reason they serve their little kids sugary drinks is convenience. When a toddler says she’s thirsty, there’s a pack of drink pouches in the pantry. The toddler grabs one, punches a straw through the top and starts drinking. 

Parents are on their way out the door — dad headed to work and his 3-year-old to be dropped off at preschool. It’s the morning rush, so he grabs a small bottle of a fruit drink and slides it into the backpack. 

Common drinks have too much sugar

While convenient, these grab-and-go drinks are often loaded with added sugar that can lead to cavities, type 2 diabetes, unhealthy weight gain, even heart disease. A 6-ounce drink pouch can have about 3 teaspoons of sugar. A 10-ounce bottle of a fruit drink can have 8 teaspoons. A 12-ounce can of soda can even more  10 teaspoons. Families often buy vitamin drinks and sports drinks in even larger-sized, 20-ounce bottles. That sports drink can come with 9 teaspoons of added sugar, and the vitamin drink with 8. 

This summer, Play Every Day is sharing new videos, online and print messages to help Alaska families figure out how much sugar is hiding in drinks and to promote drinking water or milk instead. In just 30 seconds, we use a common sweet treat to show how much sugar is in a small fruit drink. This new video shows a 3-year-old girl stacking up mini doughnuts next to a cranberry raspberry drink. Then you hear the message: “A small fruit drink can have the same amount of sugar as 8 mini doughnuts. You wouldn’t let your children eat that much sugar, so why let them drink it?” 

Our new handout includes this infographic to show the amount of sugar in drinks commonly served to little kids. 

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How much sugar is too much?

The most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar your kids eat and drink to less than 10 percent of their daily calories. For preschool-age children, that means limiting added sugar to fewer than 8 teaspoons a day. As the infographic shows, the sugar from drinks alone can take kids over the recommended limit, and that doesn’t include the added sugar little kids also get from foods.

Added sugars can be tricky to spot because these sweeteners go by many different names. They’re called high fructose corn syrup, honey, glucose, sucrose and other names:

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Read the drink label. Check the back of the bottle to see how much added sugar is in your drink. If sugar or any other sweetener is listed in the first three ingredients, your drink is likely loaded with sugar.

Serve healthy drinks at home and on the go

Unlike sugary drinks, water and white milk have no added sugar. They are the healthiest drink choices for children, and they can be just as convenient.

  • You can keep cold pitchers of water in the fridge so water is ready whenever kids are thirsty.
  • You can add slices of fruit or mint to water to give it flavor.
  • On your way out the door, you can put a refillable bottle of water in your child’s backpack. 
  • You can pack store-bought water bottles, too, but in many Alaska communities, you can drink water straight from the tap or filter it using special pitchers.

Children want to drink what their parents drink. Parents can be role models and choose healthy options. In child care centers and preschools, caregivers can show toddlers and preschoolers how they choose healthy drinks, too. 

Read more about serving healthy drinks to preschool-age children.

​​​
collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-07</hide>July 2019 ‎(2)
  
7/23/2019 11:15 AM

Play-Every-Day-Drink-Water-Poster-8.5_x11_.jpgJULY 23, 2019 — Diseases that can last a lifetime often develop when we’re adults. That includes type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer. 

But the beverages we drink and the physical activity we do — or don’t do — as children can help prevent these chronic diseases years down the road. 

That’s why Alaska’s Play Every Day campaign is launching new videos, online and print messages focused on encouraging families to serve their children healthy drinks starting at a very young age. That includes water and white milk, which have no added sugars, colors or flavors. New materials also support daily physical activity for children ages 5 and younger. 

“It’s so important to start early, to serve children water instead of sugary drinks and prioritize daily physical activity for the whole family,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program. “Taking those steps when your children are toddlers and preschoolers is a great investment toward better health for years to come.”

The Physical Activity and Nutrition program within the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services runs the Play Every Day campaign. This year, the program continued its partnership with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to create and share these new materials.

New recommendations for preschool-age children

Play Every Day’s new messages call attention to recently updated national recommendations for daily activity and limiting adding sugar. The new Physical Activity Guidelines call for a mix of light, moderate and vigorous activities off and on during several hours each day for preschool-age children.

The updated U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of sugar your kids eat and drink to less than 10 percent of their daily calories. For preschool-age children, that means limiting added sugar to fewer than 8 teaspoons a day. Small drinks like fruit drinks can be packed with that much sugar, even more. For the best health, serve your children healthy drinks instead:

    • Birth to 1 year: Choose breast milk or iron-fortified formula only.
    • 1–2 years old: Serve water and whole white milk.
    • 2–6 years old: Serve water and fat-free (skim or nonfat) or low-fat (1%) white milk.

New Play Every Day videos, posters and other educational materials 

Play Every Day’s staff created its new materials after talking with Alaska parents and learning they wanted to know more about which drinks were hiding large amounts of sugar — and just how much of it. Alaska parents often start serving their children sugary drinks at a young age. On any given day, more than 1 out of 4 Alaska parents report serving their 3-year-old children soda, fruit drinks, sweetened powdered drinks, sports or energy drinks, according to the most recent state survey of Alaska parents of preschoolers.

The labels on these sugary drinks can often make them look healthier than they really are. New Play Every Day videos and materials help parents make sense of drink labels that highlight added vitamins and natural flavors, while not making it clear that the drinks have a large amount of added sugar. Drinks can be loaded with added sugar, even when they:

    • have a fruit in their name — like cranberry or raspberry.
    • say they are organic.
    • have "100% vitamin C" written on the label.

A drink can have a fruit in its name and NOT be made with any fruit juice. Some fruit drinks can have a small amount of fruit juice, but then have a large amount of added sugar. Organic drinks often have the same amount of sugar as non-organic drinks. Both organic and non-organic drinks with added sugar can lead to health problems in little children. 

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The following new materials share information about how much sugar is hiding in drinks and the health harms that can result over time when children start consuming sugary drinks and foods at an early age:

Share the message

Follow and like Play Every Day’s Facebook page, and share the campaign’s messages with others. Play new animated short videos about water, milk and sugary drinks in child care centers, preschools, pediatric offices and more.

Do you want free printed copies of posters or educational handouts? Please contact us at playeveryday@alaska.gov.

You can also download free electronic copies from these webpages that list print and video materials: 

​​​
  
7/1/2019 8:33 AM

065joly.jpgJULY 1, 2019 —You have family friends coming to town, and you’re looking for an available public use cabin to rent. 

You want to head to Kachemak Bay near Homer, and wonder which trails are open right now and which are closed to flooding. 

Speaking of those trails, you could really use a map that you can view online, and not need to print.

All that, and more, are now available on the newly-updated Alaska State Parks website. 

Making it easier to find what you need

The Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation launched its updated website this spring and will continue to add new features this summer, said Wendy Sailors, who oversees the division’s public outreach. Alaska State Park users can visit the site to find public use cabins, trail updates and general park information.

Sailors said the previous website version had too many pages, too many words, and not enough cues for users to locate important information quickly. The division’s staff have been working hard to streamline webpages by adding drop-down menus, improving photographs and other visual elements, and tightening up wording to help people navigate the site.

“When you go to a page, it’s really easy to see everything without scrolling,” Sailors said. 

Sailors said the division also updated the website to try to reach those who aren’t typical visitors to Alaska’s state parks. Staff wanted to offer a variety of ideas and tips to safely visit and explore the parks. 

“What I hope they find is direction for a fun adventure,” said Sailors. 

They are sharing those ideas through special events, too, as part of the new Families to Parks program. This year, the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation named local travel journalist and outdoor advocate Erin Kirkland, publisher of AKontheGO.com​, as its first Alaska State Parks ambassador. The division and Kirkland are planning and promoting parks at events around Southcentral Alaska. The next one is planned for Saturday, Aug. 31. It’s called “Fall Family Adventure Day” at Bird Creek Campground south of Anchorage. Families will learn skills for setting up camp, including meal preparation, preparing a campfire, and learning ways to enjoy state parks during the fall season.

Booking a public use cabin or finding an open trail

beluga1.jpgOne of the most popular features of the new website is the menu directing people to information about public use cabins in state parks. Alaska State Parks offers more than 80 recreational cabins for public use. Sailors shared the reminder to start planning early, booking cabins up to seven months in advance. 

“Everybody wants to go camping,” Sailors said. “Everybody wants to stay in public use cabins.”

When people click on the desired cabin online, they’re able to print a handout that organizes key information: Is there a nearby toilet? Hiking trails? What should visitors bring that the cabin doesn’t have?

Another important aspect of the new site is its comprehensive trail status updates. The division regularly collects updates for open or closed trails due to wildlife or environmental factors, like flooding. Visitors can find trail maps and guides online and even view them in 3D.

Coming soon

Sailors and her division are also looking at adding elements to a new, free app Alaskans can use on their phones and mobile devices. It’s called OuterSpatial, and it currently lists parks, trails, and cabin information online for the Mat-Su Borough. Sailors said the app will soon include information about the rest of the state park units, once funding is available.

This app is particularly useful because it is GPS-based and can be accessed with or without Wi-Fi. People also will be able to use the app to send instant feedback and comments about the current condition of state park trails in real time. 

“We don’t have enough staff to hit all the trails every single year,” Sailors said. “We need that feedback from everybody.”


Photographs courtesy of Alaska State Parks

collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-06</hide>June 2019 ‎(1)
  
6/11/2019 8:06 AM

190502 OPCP Head Start-6053 HR.jpgJUNE 11, 2019 — The children at Cook Inlet Native Head Start are boating in canoes, swimming with a beluga whale, and racing sled dogs. That’s all pretend, of course, in their new culturally-designed playground.  

This Anchorage Head Start is a cultural immersion program for Alaska Native and American Indian children from birth to 5 years old. One of the goals at Cook Inlet Native Head Start is to help children develop knowledge and pride in their traditional Native heritage. 

“Everything in the playground is used for education,” said Maggie Kaloke, a teacher in the Eagle classroom with children ages 3–5. “We can talk about different cultures and histories with everything on our playground.” 

Families from all around Alaska live in Anchorage now, so the playground represents the five major cultural areas of Alaska. The children play on small replicas of a cedar house from the Southeast region; a sod house to represent the Yup’ik and Cup’ik, Alutiiq, and Unangax regions; and whale jawbones from the Iñupiak region. A large Aleutian Islands bentwood hat covers the toddler slide and climbing gym. Picture panels hanging on the fence depict traditional scenes from all over Alaska. 

The playground was a whirl of activity, with kids darting back and forth between play areas. Getting a child to stop long enough to find out their favorite activities was nearly impossible. “Climbing” yelled one boy, as he went running to the fishnet rope ladder.

190502 OPCP Head Start-7240 HR.jpg “This playground really gets the kids moving more than our old playground,” said Tiffany Deason, a teacher of 3- to 5-year-olds in the Raven classroom. “It’s designed for climbing, swinging, biking, and racing. The kid’s love it.” 

Teachers and staff spent several years planning and designing the playground before it was built during the summer of 2018. A teacher at the center designed the bentwood hat, and another staff member painted the large picture panels that surround the playground. 

After playtime, the little kids lined up to go back inside to their classrooms. It was time for lunch. And like the equipment in the playground, meals at Cook Inlet Native Head Start also tie in culture. The kids that day sat down together, family style, and ate reindeer stew. 


collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-05</hide>May 2019 ‎(2)
  
5/22/2019 8:04 AM

JH picture for Farm to ECE blog.JPGMAY 22, 2019 — One square foot of dirt sounds like a small amount of space, but children at Ray’s Child Care and Learning Center in the Mat-Su Valley are making the most of it. Children at the center are growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in their own one square-foot garden box.

“Children plant different types of seeds in their own little gardens, water daily, and watch their seeds grow,” said Natalie Ray, the founder and director of Ray’s. The children love to show off their plants and get excited about them, and that enthusiasm is shared by the parents. 

“Parents think it’s wonderful,” Ray said. “Even if they don’t do it themselves, they want their kids to experience it.” 

Ray has been doing “Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE)” long before it became popular. She’s added gardening to her lesson plans for over 30 years. Farm to ECE activities include gardening, purchasing local foods, and teaching kids about food and agriculture. Farm to ECE activities match many of the goals of child care providers, including providing hands-on learning, engaging parents and community, and developing life-long healthy habits. 

In addition to the square-foot garden the children tend, Ray also planted a larger edible garden for them to explore. She includes plants that are culturally important to Alaska Native people and can be harvested in the wild, like raspberries and fireweed. 

Ray takes advantage of Alaska’s Farm to School program through the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture. The Farm to School program provides Alaska-focused resources and grant opportunities that can help child care providers with their Farm to ECE experiences. Ray has received several grants to help build raised garden beds, buy child-size shovels for little kids to use in their gardens, and purchase a food dehydrator to dry some of their harvested produce.

Efforts to educate kids don’t just happen in the garden. Ray’s students also take field trips to local farms and host farmers in the classroom. Ray also ties in gardening and healthy foods into other lessons, including art and reading. 

“Farm to ECE activities set up young children for a lifetime of healthy habits,” said Johanna Herron with the Alaska Division of Agriculture. “It helps kids develop an appreciation for local food; knowledge of good food choices; and a connection to their environment, land, and their community.”

When it’s time to harvest at Ray’s Child Care and Learning Center, the kids enjoy some vegetables right off the plants. They add other vegetables to their meals. Serving the harvest helps kids see the complete cycle of the garden, from the seed to the table.

Ray continues to expand the center’s Farm to ECE program by adding composting, hydroponic gardening during the winter season, and using fish fertilizer. Ray said she wants the kids attending her center to understand where food comes from, because knowing that can empower them to take care of their health.

For more information on the Division of Agriculture’s Farm to School program, check out their website at www.farmtoschoolalaska.org. Sign up for the program’s newsletter or call (907) 745-7200. 


  
5/1/2019 11:42 AM

CaloriesCount.PNGMAY 1, 2019 — “Do you want a soda with that?”

Would you say “yes” if you knew that added up to 250 extra calories to your meal?

Wouldn’t it be helpful to know about those extra calories right away, when you’re making the decision about what to order? 

Starting this May, that information will be right there for you. 

Larger chain restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores selling prepared foods will now be posting calorie counts on their menus, menu boards or on signs next to food so consumers can make informed, healthier choices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)​ requires these types of eating establishments to post calorie information right next to food items on the restaurant menus or signs in stores. 

“It’s hard to guess how many calories are found in restaurant foods. It’s usually a lot more than people think,” said Diane Peck, a registered dietitian nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “Having the calories listed on the menu can help people who want to maintain a healthy weight and reduce their risk of diet-related disease make an informed decision about what to eat.” 

Providing nutrition facts where people make decisions about what to eat and buy can lead to healthier choices and improve what restaurants offer. In addition to the calorie count on the menu, restaurants must also provide other nutrition information upon request, such as fat content, carbohydrates, sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sugar, fiber and protein. All of this information makes it easier to know which foods and drinks are the lower-calorie, healthier choices when ordering fast food, grabbing prepared foods from a grocery store salad bar, or ordering pasta at a chain restaurant.

“Alaska ranks in the top ten for highest adult obesity rates in the U.S., so I think menu labeling holds a lot of potential for impact,” said Dr. Leslie Redmond, a registered dietetian nutritionist and associate professor with the University of Alaska Anchorage. “I think it’s encouraging to see widespread efforts such as menu labeling being enforced to help educate consumers and support them in making healthier food and beverage choices. It may seem like a small thing, but even small changes can help nudge people towards healthier behaviors.” 

Here’s how you can use the information to make better food and drink choices:

  • Choose a grilled chicken sandwich at 380 calories instead of a fried chicken sandwich at 570 calories. 
  • Drink water and sparkling water with no calories instead of a sugary drink, which can range from 140 calories to 250 calories, depending on the serving size.
  • Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side to help reduce added calories.
  • Ask your server for nutrition information on the menu item you’re thinking about ordering. That will help you find out how much sodium, saturated fat or fiber is in your meal. 
  • Check out the calories of the supersized meal before ordering. The extra hamburger patty, slice of cheese or French fries adds a lot of extra calories. Choose the smaller bag of fries, or even a small salad if it’s available, to reduce calories in your meal. 

For more information, check out a short FDA video called “Calories Count.” The video is focused on the new menu labeling law and recommendations for eating and drinking healthy options at restaurants.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-04</hide>April 2019 ‎(2)
  
4/16/2019 8:41 AM

Mat-Su Gym Class.JPGAPRIL 16, 2019 — Alaska has long winters and challenging weather, but that doesn’t stop kids from going outside to play for gym, recess and sports. Unfortunately, what does stop kids is not owning proper gym shoes, sports shoes and winter gear. Some Alaska kids are coming to school with shoes duct-taped to their feet. They’re not wearing jackets because they don’t own jackets. 

That’s where The Basics steps in. PE teachers, coaches, nurses and other faculty at schools make the request for their students in need, and The Basics fills the order. Over the years, it has helped thousands of kids in school districts across Alaska play at recess, join school sports teams, participate in gym class and otherwise look forward to any type of physical activity during their day. But even more than that, The Basics has helped keep these kids’ feet and bodies warm, dry, and comfortable, in and out of school. 

The Basics is an Alaska-based nonprofit organization started by Pamela Skogstad, a physical education specialist with over 25 years of experience adapting PE for children of all abilities in Alaska’s public school system. During her career, Skogstad’s idea of The Basics began while working in Title 1 schools with low-income families. 

“My colleagues and I would use our own money to purchase shoes for children in need and realized the high demand,” she said. During the first year of The Basics, the group raised enough money for 150 pairs of shoes for children in need in Anchorage.

 “The next year it took off, and this is our eighth year,” Skogstad said. The Basics has provided more than 9,000 pairs of shoes — including gym shoes and sports and winter gear — in seven school districts that include Anchorage, Mat-Su, Kenai and Sitka.

The group’s mission is to empower children in need to choose healthy, active lifestyles by supporting them with the proper shoes and gear. The Basics relies on online donations, individuals’ donations of shoes and clothing, and annual fundraisers. The group just received a grant to create an online system that will make it easier for schools to order items and help the organization know if it is meeting kids’ needs. 

This nonprofit organization gives kids opportunities they didn’t have because they lacked the right pair of shoes or boots. 

“We were contacted by a coach about a student who dreamed of playing football but didn’t have a pair of shoes to practice or compete on the field,” Skogstad said. “We purchased a pair of football shoes and had them delivered to the coach. We learned this past October that this student excelled in football, became a star athlete, and received an athletic scholarship and eventually attended college.” 

A pair of girls wanting to be part of a team showed the true meaning of friendship by sharing a pair of cross country ski boots — rotating each practice and sitting out every other race just so they could both participate. 

Coaches, teachers, nurses and The Basics staff worked behind the scenes to find a pair of ski boots for these girls. The Basics delivered the boots to the school office and the coach privately gave them to the girls so they could both continue participating in practices and races. All donations made through The Basics are confidential.

Since August, The Basics has delivered more than 700 pairs of gym shoes, sports shoes and winter gear to over 17 schools in the Mat-Su Valley. Just recently, the Mat-Su Borough School District received 12 pairs of shoes to support 12 students joining a baseball team. Even more gear went to schools in Kenai, Dillingham and Anchorage.

The Basics is growing and has established a storage and distribution facility in the Palmer area. The organization will continue to grow and plans to build a distribution facility on the Kenai Peninsula, too. Sports-specific shoes (such as shoes for track, baseball, soccer and softball) are in demand this spring. By supporting kids with the proper gym shoes, athletic shoes and winter gear, The Basics is removing limitations for children and helping them participate in all kinds of healthy activities.  

Contact The Basics if you’re in the Anchorage, Mat-Su, Kenai, or Sitka school districts and know of students who need proper gym shoes, sports shoes or winter gear. If you are interested in your school district receiving donated shoes, clothing and gear, contact Skogstad, the president of the nonprofit organization. 

Photograph courtesy of The Basics

  
4/2/2019 8:21 AM

_16A8990.jpgAPRIL 2, 2019 — When school lets out this week, dozens of young girls in Sitka are going to start warming up. They’re going to run, pacing themselves and setting goals for completed laps. They’re practicing for something big. 

On May 18, 2019, this Girls on the Run team will finish a Community 5K Fun Run that takes them along Sitka’s harbor and ends among the spruce, hemlock and towering totem poles of Sitka National Historic Park. 

But they’re really practicing for something even bigger, said coach Shadeed Miller. They’re building skills for the rest of their lives. 

Some of those skills set them up for a lifetime of fitness and a better chance for physical health. But other skills set these girls up for the other key ingredients of well-rounded health that go beyond the physical, to social and emotional growth. 

“I want them to have a sense of pride in themselves, in each other and community,” said Miller, who works for Sitkans Against Family Violence. He said he hopes these girls discover their “limitless potential.”

Girls on the Run is a national program that promotes physical activity while also empowering girls, Miller said. During the course of the three-month program, Girls on the Run focuses on helping girls build confidence, strength of character, and positive connections with others; care and show compassion for others; improve their competence in many areas; and contribute to their community, Miller said. Sixteen communities across Alaska are participating in the program this year, said Natalie Watson, coordinator for Girls on the Run of Greater Alaska. Sitka’s 11th season started in February and ends with the Fun Run in May. This year, 33 third- through fifth-grade Sitka girls are participating. There’s a cost for the season, but Miller stressed there’s also a scholarship program funded by Sitka organizations and individuals to ensure money doesn’t stand in the way of any girl who wants to participate.

Play Every Day features the Sitka Girls on the Run Team in its newest video​ that shows the fun ways kids across Alaska play every day in all seasons and every kind of weather: snow, cold temperatures, sun, and in the case of Sitka — often rain. In this video, the Sitka girls run through the Sitka national park, past totem poles and across a finish line where their friends are ready for high-fives and congratulations.  

During the Girls on the Run season, practice begins each afternoon with discussions about what the girls think of themselves, as well as issues they may be facing socially, such as gossiping and bullying. The program helps girls learn how to be intentional with their decisions, choose to be happy, feel good about themselves, and stand up for themselves and others, Miller said. It helps them strengthen their physical abilities and complete their final challenge: the Community 5K Fun Run through nature. 

“If you literally take one step after the next and put good intention into it, you can change so much of your life — and for the better,” Miller said. 

Taking one step after another through nature is something Miller knows firsthand, and he uses that as an example with the girls when they’re struggling. 

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In 2016, Miller said he chose to step away from his job at the time and challenge himself in a different way. Even though he hadn’t camped since he was a Boy Scout, he started hiking and camping along the entire Appalachian Trail in April 2016. He started in Georgia and walked 2,189 miles through 14 states, ending in Maine on September 25, 2016. He started walking all by himself, but along the way met hikers who walked with him much of the time. His personal experience became social. These hikers finished together and remain friends for life, he said.

“All I was doing was walking, each and every day,” Miller said. But that commitment to walking changed him physically, mentally and emotionally. It forced him to listen to his body and how he was feeling, he said. 

When he’s running with the Girls on the Run, he listens for any shred of doubt from the young participants. 

"'Hey, you are moving forward,’” he tells them. ”'And that’s all that counts.’”

He tells them about what it took to complete an almost six-month hike. He looks first for that disbelief on their faces, and then the realization that they got this — just like he did. 

"'Ok,’” the girls realize. "'I can do this.’” 

Sitka: Mark May 18, 2019, on your calendars, because 33 girls are going to do this, and you can be there to cheer them on.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-03</hide>March 2019 ‎(1)
  
3/22/2019 9:05 AM

19.03.14_HKC.jpgMARCH 22, 2019 — Over Spring Break, cooks at child care centers around Alaska came to Anchorage to sharpen their culinary and math skills with help from the Institute of Child Nutrition. They learned best practices and developed skills for providing nutritious meals for young children. 

The Institute trainers included a math teacher and a professional chef. They offered “Culinary Math” as a one-day training and “Healthy Cuisine for Kids” as a two-day training. Both provided classroom and hands-on experiences for learning culinary math, nutrition and healthful cooking methods.

The Institute is a federally-funded national center dedicated to research, education and training for child nutrition programs. Participants who took the training this spring used math and food preparation techniques to produce lots of healthy, tasty dishes designed to appeal to young children. Those dishes included “Tuscan Quinoa Salad,” “Porcupine Sliders,” and a class favorite: “Roasted Fish & Crispy Slaw Wraps.” Destiny Ritter, a food service specialist in Kodiak, learned to make a cheese sauce for “Chić Penne,” a healthier version of macaroni and cheese. 

“The trick is to let the sauce cool before adding the cheese, so it’s not grainy,” Ritter said. 

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) Child Nutrition Programs received a grant to offer the trainings to cooks who work with the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The CACFP provides healthy meals and snacks to children and adults receiving day care. It plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care and making healthy meals more affordable for low-income families.

“Child care center directors have been requesting cooks’ training to assist their staff in understanding and meeting the CACFP meal patterns,” said Ann-Marie Martin, Alaska CACFP program coordinator. “Sometimes cooks come to a center with very little culinary training, so this is an opportunity to gain skill development and resources to provide healthier options for the children in care. DEED is very excited to be able to fill this need by utilizing USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) grant funds.”

Math skills are helpful for adjusting recipes and following the CACFP meal patterns. Isaiah Conley, a cook with the Anchorage Boys & Girls Club, said he enjoyed the math sessions. 

“I learned how to break down recipes, like how many grains are in that snack so we’re following the CACFP rules,” Conley said.

This training helps cooks from early child care centers across Alaska come together in small groups and receive additional support from knowledgeable trainers. Sydney Hinkley, a cook with the Children’s Lunchbox in Anchorage, said the training helps her try new recipes, as well as learn from cooks at other child care centers. 

“It’s a chance to compare notes,” Hinkley said.

“Culinary Math” and “Healthy Cuisine for Kids” will be offered in Alaska six times in the next two years. The DEED grant provides funding to help cooks from 54 communities travel to Anchorage or Fairbanks to participate. For more information about the classes, contact Ann-Marie Martin at (907) 465-8771 or annmarie.martin@alaska.gov​.​


In the photograph above:  Brenda Marquez from Dutch Harbor and Mikal McGlashan from Sand Point prepare “Lentils of the Southwest.”


collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-02</hide>February 2019 ‎(1)
  
2/26/2019 11:19 AM

TCC headshots TSL.jpgFEBRUARY 26, 2019 —For years, our partner Healthy Futures has been recognizing children’s commitment to daily physical activity with monthly prizes. 

Now, a local group of pediatricians is adding another level of recognition for these active Alaska kids. 

The Children’s Clinic, a pediatric clinic in Anchorage since 1970, is encouraging their elementary school-age patients to participate in the free, school-based Healthy Futures Challenge. Patients in participating elementary schools can bring their completed Healthy Futures physical activity log to the clinic, show it to their pediatrician or nurse, and receive a special prize to celebrate that activity. The clinic will even accept the log as a faxed or emailed copy. These Anchorage pediatricians also are opening up the challenge to children who attend schools that are not yet signed up for the Healthy Futures Challenge. The child can download the physical activity log, fill it out for the month and turn it in to the clinic for a prize.

Dr. Janet Shen, one of three pediatricians at The Children’s Clinic, said she thought it was a great idea for doctors to recognize the physical activity their young patients are doing.

“This is exactly what we want you to do,” Shen said. Getting kids moving can encourage the rest of the family to be physically active, too, she said.

“With this growing epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, I think any time we can encourage healthy habits from a young age, hopefully we can play a role in promoting long-term health,” she said. 

“It will be something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”

Healthy Futures, a nonprofit program run through the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, offers two physical activity challenges in elementary schools each school year: one in the fall and the second in the spring. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The challenge is free to schools and students. Students who successfully log their physical activity each month of the challenge win Healthy Futures prizes, which have included water bottles, jump ropes, and other prizes that promote activity.The Children's Clinic Wrist Band.jpg

The Children’s Clinic — which cares for about 5,500 patients — now adds a second level of recognition for active children. Patients who completed an activity log for February will receive a glow-in-the-dark wristband that says “I’m an action hero.” This band will go along with the wristbands that Healthy Futures gives to participating students this school year. Future prizes from The Children’s Clinic will include a drawing to play at local gyms, such as rock gyms or trampoline playgrounds.

“I just have a passion for kids to be outside,” Shen said. “I try to tear them away from their screens to get them to be more physically active.”

Children — and their parents — are spending more and more time on their phones, tablets and devices, and this screen time pulls them away from being active, Shen said. Regular physical activity plus adequate sleep and a healthy diet can have benefits beyond physical health, including improved behavior, mental health and performance in the classroom, she said.

The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge continues through March and April this school year. It’s not too late for elementary schools to sign up and participate. This spring, about 150 schools across Alaska have signed up for the challenge. Principals or teachers can sign up their schools for the Healthy Futures Challenge using this simple online database​. If you have questions about the Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures program coordinator, at (907) 360-6331 or alyse@healthyfuturesak.org.


collapse Published Month : <hide>2019-01</hide>January 2019 ‎(2)
  
1/30/2019 8:31 AM

PLAAY Day 2018 Blog photo.jpgJANUARY 30, 2019 — Students and teachers at Alaska schools are getting ready for the next PLAAY Day — that day once a year when children complete a half hour of organized physical activity all at the same time in communities across the state.

The first PLAAY Day took place two years ago, and since then hundreds of children in schools from Aniak to Glennallen to Ketchikan have participated. The third annual PLAAY Day is set for Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019. Alaska schools can sign up now using a simple online database.

PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. Our partners, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures program, are running PLAAY Day to help Alaska children get active for good health. 

“This is a shared experienced about really connecting kids in different places,” said Wally Wilson, director of PLAAY events for the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Schools have been signing up across Alaska, as well as in other parts of the country like Connecticut and Washington, D.C., Wilson said.

This year, participating children will be doing the physical activities of superheroes, nationally recognized athletes and former presidents. Kids will do the motions of cross country skate skiing, in honor of Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall. They’ll do the motions of a balance beam walk like Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas. They’ll pretend to complete a slap shot like Stanley Cup winning hockey player Scott Gomez. These athletes and leaders are role models for Alaska’s students — putting the emphasis on choosing healthy physical activities. 

“It’s cool to be healthy,” Wilson said. ​

PLAAY Day will begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 21, with students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation leading a room of Anchorage-based children in the fun session of activities. They’ll be demonstrating the activities at the Special Olympics Alaska building in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage. GCI and Denali Media will be broadcasting that demonstration live to participating schools using free videoconferencing technology. That will allow children across Alaska to join along and complete the half hour of physical activity in their own gyms, classrooms, recreation centers and common spaces. All children will be able to participate at their appropriate levels. Physical activities included during PLAAY Day will be able to be modified and adapted to include students of all abilities, said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

Schools and organizations across Alaska will participate in PLAAY Day live by streaming through Facebook and YouTube Live. Schools that sign up for PLAAY Day will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer. Interested schools and groups can register as an entire school, a classroom, a home school, or an organization.

Right after PLAAY Day concludes, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame will run the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 22 and 23, 2019, at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium in Anchorage. The theme of the 2019 PLAAY events is “Exercise Leadership.” The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The summit will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health. The keynote speaker this year is Dr. Michael Yogman, a Boston-area pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Yogman recently published an article called “The Power of Play:  A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children.” This article focuses on the importance of play in healthy youth development. 

People in remote locations across Alaska will be able to participate in the summit through videoconferencing. Professional development credits for school district employees, credit hours for nurses, and social work continuing education units (CEUs) will be available to participants. 

Many organizations are partners of PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit. They include Healthy Futures; the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; GCI and Denali Media; Special Olympics Alaska; the Anchorage School District; University of Alaska Anchorage; clinics and hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital at Providence, Alaska Center for Pediatrics, LaTouche Pediatrics, the Children’s Clinic and Alaska Pediatric Therapy; the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; the Play Every Day campaign; Bristol Bay Native Corporation; the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; and businesses, such as Kaladi Brothers Coffee, Moose’s Tooth, the Alaska Club, the Dome and Skinny Raven Sports. 

To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org​

Photograph courtesy of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame

  
1/8/2019 8:26 AM

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpgJanuary 8, 2019 — Play Every Day’s partner, the Healthy Futures program, is extending the sign-up period for the Spring 2019 Challenge so more elementary schools can participate in the physical activity challenge that runs Feb. 1 through April 30.

Every school year, Healthy Futures runs a fall and spring physical activity challenge that is free for elementary schools and students. During the challenge, students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The Healthy Futures program awards prizes to K-6 students who log their physical activity and turn in those logs at the end of each month. The state’s Play Every Day campaign continues to work with Healthy Futures to support the challenge in elementary schools across Alaska and encourage children to build the healthy habit of daily activity.

The Healthy Futures program typically starts in December — a couple months ahead of time — to sign up schools for the Spring Challenge. This year, however, schools in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Borough were closed in early December so school district staff could assess damage from the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake and make repairs as needed. Healthy Futures started registering schools for the Spring Challenge in December, but decided to extend registration this month so more schools could participate. 

"We wanted to be as supportive and accommodating as possible with teachers and schools dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake,” said Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director. “Extending the deadline hopefully gives our partners and teachers time to focus on recovery before looking ahead to the Spring Challenge."

As of this week, more than 120 elementary schools have signed up for the Spring 2019 Challenge. During a typical challenge, between 150 to 200 elementary schools across the state sign up to participate. You can go online to see if your school is already signed up for the Spring Challenge. If your school isn’t signed up yet, the principal or a teacher at the school can sign up for free using this simple online database

If you have questions about signing up for the Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures program coordinator, at (907) 360-6331 or alyse@healthyfuturesak.org.


collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-12</hide>December 2018 ‎(2)
  
12/18/2018 10:49 AM

Fred Ipalook Elementary Playground in Utqiagvik.jpgThe school day had started in Utqiaġvik, and the thermometer read minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It had been in the negative degrees during the entire school week, but that’s typical in December in the northernmost Alaska — and U.S. — community with about 4,500 residents. The day stayed dark and then dim from morning until night. The sun doesn’t rise midwinter this far north of the Arctic Circle. 

And yet, the youngest kids in Utqiaġvik could still play every day. That’s because they attend a school that has done something unique. Inside its heated school building, Fred Ipalook Elementary has an entire school playground that most of us are used to seeing outdoors instead. The playground includes jungle gyms, slides, ladders, basketball hoops and open space. The elementary students in Utqiaġvik love to use the indoor playground, said Monica Lugo, physical education teacher at Fred Ipalook Elementary. It’s open to them every day of the school year during normal recess time, extra recess sessions and as a reward for demonstrating good behavior at school. 

“There really is no excuse for them to get no activity,” Lugo said. 

Having playgrounds that make it possible to play in any weather helps Alaska children meet the national Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published updated guidelines in November 2018, but the recommendation for school-age children remained the same: For the best health, these children should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Kids can get that activity through recess, physical education class, and activities before and after school.

Lugo said Fred Ipalook Elementary does have outdoor playgrounds to support physical activity, but they aren’t used as much as the indoor playground during cold, snowy months. Sometimes the snow is piled so high that the slide can’t be used. Other times, students don’t bring the right clothing to play in below zero temperatures. 

“Not all the kids bring the gear that’s heavy enough, or they forget gloves or hats,” Lugo said. 

Other Alaska communities face different types of weather challenges when it comes to playing outside. Petersburg in Southeast Alaska is one example. The community of about 3,000 residents has many rainy days. The rain doesn't stop Stedman Elementary students from playing outside, however, because the outside playground has a roof that covers basketball hoops, four square games and other areas for play.

"We don't hold kids in for rain," said Ginger Evens, wellness team member and teacher for the Petersburg School District.

"Anybody can play, anywhere.”

Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children. 


  
12/10/2018 7:23 AM

140412 Play Every Day-1952 web.jpgDo you want to prevent cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, injuries and unhealthy weight gain? Do you want to sleep better and improve your ability to think, reason and remember? If you do, move more and sit less. 

That’s the recommendation shared in the new Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published in November 2018.

“Regular physical activity is one of the most important things people can do to improve their health,” wrote Alex M. Azar II, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the guidelines. “…The scientific evidence continues to build — physical activity is linked with even more positive health outcomes than we previously thought. And, even better, benefits can start accumulating with small amounts of, and immediately after doing, physical activity.”

Physical activity can improve physical and mental health, as well as academics. For children in elementary and middle school, the guidelines say that regular activity improves memory, attention and performance in the classroom. Activity improves mental health by reducing children’s and adults’ risk of depression. For older adults, regular activity can cut the risk of falling and suffering injuries from falls. Just one session of physical activity can reduce your anxiety and even improve your sleep that night.

While the guidelines recommend that adults move at least 150 minutes a week and school-age children move 60 minutes a day, that might be more than you and your family can do right now.

“Do what you can,” the guidelines state. “Even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits.”

While regular activity can improve health in many ways and lower the risk for common chronic diseases that last a lifetime, most Alaska adults, youth and children do not meet the recommendations for activity. Nearly 4 out of 5 Alaska adults and teenagers don’t get enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity during the week. 

Looking for a quick summary of the guidelines? Read the Top 10 Things to Know online. The recently updated Physical Activity Guidelines share new recommendations supported by science.

Immediate benefits for how people feel, function and sleep

According to the guidelines, just one session of physical activity can reduce anxiety, improve memory, lower blood pressure and improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. The guidelines confirm that activity can improve quality of sleep for adults. It can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and can increase the amount of time in deep sleep. It also can cut down on daytime sleepiness. 

Risks of not being physically active

For the best health, adults need to move more. Increased time in low-levels of activity — like sitting, lying down, or watching TV or some other type of digital screen —  is linked with increased risk for death, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer, the guidelines state. 

For the most health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes (1 ¼ hours) of vigorous activity each week. Adults should do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Moderate activity includes anything that gets your heart beating faster, such as biking, hiking, recreational swimming or raking the yard. Jogging, running, carrying heavy groceries or shoveling snow are examples of vigorous activities. 

Importance of encouraging physical activity early in life

Parents and caregivers should help children ages 3–5 be active throughout the day. The guidelines state this regular activity will improve their growth, development and bone strength, and help them grow up at a healthy weight. 

The guidelines continue to recommend that older children ages 6–17 play every day for 60 minutes or more. This should include a mix of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. 

Short bursts of activity bring benefits

The new guidelines stress that any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. The previous edition of the guidelines stated that only 10-minute sessions of activity counted toward meeting the guidelines. The new edition removes this requirement and encourages people to move more frequently throughout the entire day.

For more information about the importance of physical activity, visit the Active People, Healthy Nation website.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-11</hide>November 2018 ‎(1)
  
11/13/2018 9:35 AM

DSC_0561_web.jpgSchool food service directors from the southeast to the northernmost parts of Alaska made the decision to serve only plain white milk during lunch and breakfast to cut back on the amount of sugar children drink during the school day. 

In 2011, Carlee Johnson became the food service director at the Petersburg School District in Southeast Alaska. She learned that the children in Petersburg schools were offered chocolate milk every day of the week at school. Flavored milk was the most popular choice among the students, she said. Johnson started making changes to improve the availability of healthier food and drink options in Petersburg schools. Within months of her arrival at the district, Johnson’s food service program stopped ordering the chocolate milk.

“I completely took it out,” she said. 

Geno Ceccarelli, food service coordinator, made the decision for the North Slope Borough School District when he started there five years ago. When he arrived, children could choose a chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk on Fridays. Ceccarelli said the flavored milk was high in sugar.

“So I eliminated it,” he said.

Johnson and Ceccarelli said some children and families were upset when the food service programs removed the chocolate milk from schools, but the food service directors explained the health reasons for making the change. When Petersburg students asked why they could no longer have chocolate milk, Johnson told them flavored milk is meant to be a treat offered only occasionally — “not like an everyday item.”

Both school districts participate in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, which provide low-cost or free meals to millions of eligible children nationwide during the school day. Participation in the program requires the schools to provide at least two options of milk for lunch, but those options do not need to include chocolate or flavored milk. The options can look like they do in North Slope and Petersburg, where they include two types of plain white milk: one low-fat and one fat-free. 

Cutting out chocolate and flavored milk reduces added sugar served to children at school. An 8-ounce container of fat-free chocolate milk offered at school can have about 3 teaspoons of added sugar. The sugar that children drink plus the sugar that they eat can quickly take kids over the recommended daily limit of added sugar for the best health

Added sugar wasn’t the only concern in the chocolate milk. Flavored milk also can have added salt, Johnson and Ceccarelli said. Added salt is something both are trying to reduce in the foods and drinks they serve to children in school. 

Switching to only white milk was just one change Johnson and Ceccarelli made at their school districts to make meals healthier for children. Petersburg schools added salad bars and stopped serving some processed foods, like chicken nuggets. Ceccarelli cut the added sugar in foods by using pureed carrots, blueberries and applesauce as sweeteners. He switched white rice to brown rice and reduced added salt by switching to dried herbs to season foods. 

“Trying to do better for the kids — that’s my goal,” he said. “Less sugar, less sodium, more flavors, whole grains.”

Ceccarelli and Johnson also encourage students to drink water, and both of their school districts have made water more available. Schools in Utqiaġvik, formerly called Barrow, supply pitchers of water for the children at lunch. Schools in North Slope villages often set out coolers of water, Ceccarelli said.

Water became more available in all Petersburg schools when the district replaced older water fountains with water bottle filling stations in the elementary, middle and high schools, as well as in the gym area. Then, district staff gave all students their own water bottles so they could drink water in class and throughout the day. The food service staff in Petersburg schools occasionally make water more appealing in the cafeteria, too, by providing sliced lemons or limes to flavor the water.

Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.


collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-10</hide>October 2018 ‎(3)
  
10/29/2018 7:58 AM

​The Southeast Island School District (SISD)​ faces a few challenges when it comes to getting fresh fruits and vegetables. Its eight schools are scattered around several islands, with many accessible only by float plane. Produce travels long distances on a barge from Seattle, making several stops before reaching a Southeast Island schoSoutheast Island School District greenhouse 2018.jpgol. Most vegetables don’t grow well in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest.

Despite the odds, Southeast Island students, teachers and communities are working together to provide their own freshly grown produce for their school lunch program. The district’s school garden program began in 2014, with a greenhouse funded by an Alaska Workforce Development Grant. When Thorne Bay School began using a wood-fired boiler, they funneled some of the heat to the greenhouse to help grow foods year-round. An indoor hydroponic system grew lettuce that was used for school lunches. 

Four years later, the district has six greenhouses, one orchard, and over 100 berry bushes. Chickens and rabbits freely roam the orchards. Three schools now use an aquaponics system, where fish provide nutrients to the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. 

Fresh salad bars with locally grown produce are on the menu every day. Students also have access to the greenhouses and will eat fresh tomatoes as a snack. 

“Students were happy to eat salad when they realized they could pluck leaves from the plants themselves,” said Megan Fitzpatrick, a teacher in the district’s Farm to School program and the district's greenhouse manager. "It’s rewarding to hear kids go from asking ‘That’s what a cucumber plant looks like?’ to eating salad every day at school.” 

Along with the fresh produce, the school gardens add other benefits. The Southeast Island School District provides fruits and vegetables for local farmers markets. School curriculum includes the garden as well. For example, photosynthesis is taught in the greenhouse, and kids learn geometry by measuring garden beds, how much soil to fill them with, and how many plants can be added to each bed. The garden also has taught students job skills in agriculture. 

This past summer, the school district received a national Farm to School grant that will help expand the successful program. The district’s future plans include providing training for safe-handling of local produce to food service workers in all eight schools, reclaiming 80 percent of food waste by separating garbage from compostable materials, making produce available in all eight schools’ cafeterias three times a week, and using surveys to show students’ awareness of a healthy diet. 

The school district’s Farm to School program is challenging and a continual learning curve. It’s difficult to fit time in the daily class schedule that is solely dedicated to the garden. Yet, those involved in the program feel there’s nothing more rewarding than working with children and teaching them about food.

“If there’s anything that unites all walks of life, it’s food and it brings all people together,” said Fitzpatrick. “We all have food in common.”

October is national Farm to School month. To learn more about Farm to School in Alaska, visit http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_FTS.htm

Photograph courtesy of the Southeast Island School District


  
10/23/2018 3:50 PM

Sitka Salmon burgers 2018.jpegIt’s Wednesday, so children attending elementary schools in Sitka will have fish sandwiches made with Alaska pollock, peas and carrots for lunch. 

That’s because the Sitka School District has a special program that serves locally harvested fish during hot lunch once a week — on Wednesdays — at all of its schools. Watch this video to see how the program works in the Sitka School District. 

Sitka, an island community of about 9,000 residents in Southeast Alaska, is known for its local wild salmon. Every year, Sitka hosts a health summit. Community members pick goals to improve the health of their residents. Serving locally caught wild salmon and fish in schools became the goal at the 2010 summit. This program is now called Fish to Schools, and it relies on several partnerships with the Sitka Conservation Society and local fishermen.

Fish like wild salmon have health benefits. Fish provides: 

"It's just really good for you, while tasting so good," said Eric Jordan, a Sitka fisherman who donates some of his catch to the program.

The school chefs at Sitka School District provide the children with a lot of variety when serving fish at lunch. They prepare baked salmon, fish nuggets, sweet and sour rockfish, salmon chowder and more. 

“Now we’re doing homemade fish nuggets, our version of fish and chips, which is like the rockfish or the halibut when we have that. We take it, roll it in corn starch, dip it in a fat-free ranch, roll it in some herbed Panko (bread crumbs), and it’s baked. And it retains the moisture and the flavor and the seasonings,” said Jo Michalski, executive chef for the Sitka School District.

Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies​ schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.


  
10/9/2018 8:36 AM

_DSC9681.jpgAlaska parents may think their children get a physical education class as often as they did growing up. In 2017, however, only 1 out of 5 Alaska high school students attended daily physical education classes.

Experts from SHAPE America and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) call for elementary schools to provide 150 minutes of physical education each week. Not all elementary schools in Alaska provide that much. Some school districts and schools within districts, however, are making regular physical education classes a priority and seeing the benefits
 
Providing high-quality physical education (PE) in schools is not the same thing as providing physical activity. Time for physical activity, however, is a great way to practice what’s learned in PE classes and can help Alaska children grow up at a healthy weight. Recess is one example of physical activity time.
 

Physical education:

  • teaches fundamental skills in movement, like throwing and catching a ball
  • improves children’s motor skills
  • builds a foundation for lifelong physical fitness habits, and
  • delivers academic benefits, including the possibility of improving children’s behavior in the classroom, grades and test scores.
 
Meeting recommendations in Alaska schools
 
Elementary schools in two different Alaska school districts have found their own ways to meet the recommendations for PE each week. In the Petersburg School District, that means providing PE classes four days each week and exceeding the 150 minutes of recommended PE time by the end of the school week. At Seward Elementary School, that means PE class all five days of the school week, every week, for children in grades 3-5.
 
Petersburg School District
 
At Stedman Elementary School, students in grades K-5 alternate between a week of gym class and a week of swim class, said Ginger Evens, teacher and wellness team member in the district. Students have 40 minutes of PE each day for four days during the school week, along with a minimum of 20 minutes of recess each day.
 
Daily physical activity and PE have become part of the school culture in Petersburg, Evens said.
 
“I believe Petersburg prioritizes meeting the national standards for PE time for children because of the overall benefits for their personal well-being, as well as for academic performance,” she said. “In the past, parents and community members have gone to school board meetings when there has been talk of cutting the swim program or reducing PE time and argued for keeping both programs.”
 
Petersburg’s commitment to PE also delivers the benefit of learning life-saving swimming skills in a coastal community. Students learn how to properly wear a life jacket, put on a survival suit and use cold water survival skills that are essential for a fishing community, Evens said.
 
Seward Elementary School in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
 
The teachers and principal at Seward Elementary School had been investigating strategies for improvements at school. They read research showing the connection between more active time in PE classes and recess and improvements in students’ learning and behavior. 
 
In 2005, the staff changed the class schedule so all students in grade 3–5 could get 30 minutes of PE class every day, said Mark Fraad, the school’s sole PE teacher. That enabled the elementary school to reach the recommended 150 minutes of PE time each school week. The change to PE time, however, required changes in other areas, too. The school staff agreed to start having students eat lunch in classrooms so the gym was open for more PE classes all day.
 
Students at Seward Elementary seek out activity time as a reward, Fraad said. When they meet a goal, students ask for more PE time instead of treats or a food-related party.
 
“We’re offering a healthy alternative to the pizza party,” he said.
 
School staff noticed improved student performance and behavior after adding more physical education time. During the school year following the addition of PE classes, the percent of students skilled in math and reading increased in grades 3–5.
 
Strategies like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. Read more online about other strategies schools across Alaska are using to make healthy foods, drinks and physical activity available to more children.

 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-09</hide>September 2018 ‎(2)
  
9/25/2018 7:34 AM

DSC_9948.jpgDo you have 60 seconds? 

Watch our new video that shows all the ways Alaska children get out and play for 60 minutes every day. You’ll see kids in Utqiaġvik chasing each other in the snow and kids in Bethel jumping down sand dunes. You’ll see kids in Unalakleet running through the neighborhoods, kids in Petersburg swimming, and kids in Sitka splashing in puddles and playing kickball. You’ll see children shooting hoops, climbing jungle gyms, jumping rope, tumbling, flipping, riding bikes, dancing and running among the totem poles in Southeast Alaska. They’re smiling, laughing and happy because they are moving.

Find our free materials online

We are sharing videos, related posters and materials across the state and asking you to share them with your family, friends, teachers and schools; in your health clinics; and with your community organizations. You can run these videos in waiting rooms or share them on your websites or social media channels. You can hang posters in your schools, recreational and community centers, medical and dental clinics, and in other places that children and families visit. All materials are free and can be downloaded online from our physical activity resources webpage and another webpage with materials focused on cutting back on sugary drinks and choosing water and healthy drinks instead. On those pages, you’ll find the following:

A 30-second video showing Alaska kids playing

A 30-second video about schools that have made it easier for students to drink water instead of sugary drinks

A "Jump In" poster promoting 60 minutes of daily play

A “Play” poster promoting all the fun ways children can be active every day 

A link to our longtime partner, the nonprofit Healthy Futures program that provides a free physical activity challenge through more than 150 Alaska elementary schools each year.

You also can request a package of our educational handouts (rack cards) to share with parents regarding the health and academic benefits of daily physical activity. Play Every Day also has several educational rack cards about choosing healthy drinks instead of sugary drinks. Go online to find version 1, version 2 and version 3 of these rack cards. 

Help Alaska families overcome challenges to daily physical activity

We talk to Alaska families before we make our materials. We have heard the challenges they say they face when trying to meet the national recommendation for 60 minutes of daily physical activity. They talk about a lack of time and a commitment to other priorities, like homework for children, chores and work for parents. They talk about challenging weather, which can mean cold, snowy, dark days in some communities and wet, rainy days in others. They talk about how cost can get in the way, with some sports and activities coming with price tags that are out of reach. They talk about a lack of opportunities in some communities, which don’t have pools or gyms open after school and on weekends.

Play Every Day’s messages show there are ways to overcome those challenges to get to the benefits on the other side. Daily activity can mean time spent together as a family, going for hikes, riding bikes and playing basketball. Daily activity can help children grow up at a healthy weight and feel good about themselves. It can reduce the risk of developing diseases that can last a lifetime, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Physical activity also can improve academic performance, including grades and focus in the classroom.  

Over the years, we have found so many examples of Alaska children facing cold, snowy or rainy days and choosing to play anyway. Utqiaġvik kids dressed in their parkas and snow pants and turned a snow pile into a fun place to slide and jump. Bethel kids did the same thing with a sand dune. Puddles on the Petersburg and Sitka playgrounds became opportunities to splash. The kids threw on their raincoats and played outside, even finding a break from the rain under the covered playgrounds that some Alaska schools build to help children stay active in wet weather. After playing in the snow, Utqiaġvik kids could warm up inside by playing at recess in an entire jungle gym and basketball court that’s built in the heated school building

Learn more online about ways to support daily physical activity for the children in your life. 

  
9/4/2018 11:24 AM

TurnipHarvest.jpgA year ago, about one-third of the residents in a small, rural Alaska community decided to take on a challenge — to eat only traditional, local foods for six weeks. 

A group of Igiugig high school students in Teacher Tate Gooden’s classroom came up with the idea for what they called the Native Foods Challenge and then set it up as a school science study, complete with questions that needed answers:

  • What would happen if the community ate only traditional, local foods for six weeks? 
  • ​How would their health be affected? 
  • Would they notice changes in blood pressure, blood sugar or body weight? 

They followed up their questions with a written hypothesis: “We think this experience is going to be painful. People are going to be going through withdrawals from sugar and caffeine, but we think that our health is going to greatly improve.”

What started out as a children’s challenge resulted in noticeable improved physical health for the small village’s adults, Gooden said. Igiugig — southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula — has only 69 residents. Twenty participants, ranging in age from 7 to 48, completed the challenge from Sept. 13 through Oct. 30, 2017. 

“We had a lot of weight loss in the adults, which was great,” Gooden said. Nine adults lost a total of 192 pounds during the six weeks, he said. One adult who had diabetes reported being able to cut back on medication during the challenge. Another adult reported a decrease in high blood pressure, he said.

Gooden’s students wrote a report about the steps of their challenge from start to finish, they summarized their findings and then presented the project at the end of last school year during a science fair. It all started by reading a book for class.

Two years ago, Gooden’s high school students read “In Defense of Food,” by Michael Pollan. This book discusses an experiment in Australia when Aboriginal people traveled into their traditional rural homeland for seven weeks and ate only foods they could hunt or gather. Then they examined the health outcomes from such a diet. 

After reading the book, Gooden’s class in the Lake and Peninsula School District wanted to try something similar in rural Alaska.

“We like to do more than learn about things,” Gooden said. “We like to invest and become involved with the topic.”

The students pitched the idea to the community and learned that many residents wanted to join in on the challenge. It started with baseline health screenings in January 2017 at the community health center run through Southcentral Foundation. The community health aide measured participants’ blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight. Those screenings continued monthly through the end of the Native Food Challenge. Then the community scheduled the challenge to start in September 2017. Planning in advance meant participants had months to harvest, prepare and store fish, berries and greens to eat later during the challenge. 

Each participant got to choose how strict they would be with their eating. Some called themselves “purists,” eating only foods found close to Igiugig. Another group only ate foods from Alaska. A third group focused only on whole foods, skipping packaged or processed foods. Igiugig has a store, but Gooden says the food there is often processed and costly. The fourth group of participants were less strict with their eating. All groups were allowed to add oats and salt to their diets.

Gooden listed many examples of what counted as locally caught or grown food: salmon, moose, ducks and geese, chickens, wild greens and berries, and food that grew in the gardens, such as kale, turnips, tomatoes, potatoes and rutabagas. What they were eating became a daily conversation, he said: “What are you having for dinner? Do you have anything for me? Do you want to trade?” Participants got creative with their ingredients. Someone made rutabaga and potato chips by thinly slicing the vegetables, then salting and baking them, Gooden said.

The group punctuated the food challenge with a 22-mile hike to Big Mountain, an area that is historically and culturally important to Igiugig residents, Gooden said. When they arrived, the participants had a potluck featuring native foods. It took multiple days to complete the hike, walking through windy, rainy and chilly weather. That hike stood out for the children.

“They were proud of themselves,” Gooden said. “They felt accomplished.”

As the project ended, the students wrote conclusions in their report. There were parts of the challenge that were difficult.

“Our hypothesis was correct,” the science report ends. “Everyone suffered caffeine withdrawals and sugar addictions. The first few weeks were difficult. … But toward the middle of the challenge the community got used to the new diet and began to thrive.”

The students wrote that they learned a lot about food and their health. The community is planning to do another food challenge in the fall of 2019, Gooden said.

 The participants in 2017 valued the shared experience, he said. 

“We were part of a community,” Gooden said. “We were part of a team. We were in this together.” 

Photograph of a turnip harvest courtesy of Igiugig School

collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-08</hide>August 2018 ‎(2)
  
8/27/2018 8:58 AM

Success-in-School-Thumbnail-400-with-YouTube-button.pngStudents are going back to schools across Alaska this month, and a number of these schools are continuing programs that make healthy drinks, foods and physical activity more available to hundreds of children. To share those ideas that work, Play Every Day launched a new short Public Service Announcement (PSA) that highlights programs in two corners of Alaska: the North Slope Borough School District and Petersburg in Southeast Alaska. 

Programs like these may work in other schools. Talk about these ideas with your school districts, PTAs, principals, and wellness committees to see if they could work in your communities and schools. 

Creating soda-free schools

One way to help children grow up at a healthy weight is to cut back on serving them sugary drinks. Reducing added sugar can lead to many health benefits, including preventing type 2 diabetes, cavities, even heart disease. After years of support from students, families and athletic booster clubs, the North Slope Borough School District made a change that elementary and middle schools in the district would be soda-free schools. This means soda can't be sold at schools, and it also can't be provided to students for free or brought from home.

Making it easier for kids to drink water at school

Another way to help kids cut back on sugary drinks is to give them more access to drinking water. That's the change that Petersburg School District made in schools across the Southeast community.

In recent years, staff at the district noticed the schools’ water fountains were getting old. They spent years replacing all of them with fountains that could also fill water bottles. The district installed water bottle filling stations at the high school, middle school, and elementary school, as well as the community gym where the elementary students have physical education classes. Then district staff gave a water bottle to every student. In Petersburg, that included about 450 students in grades K-12. Students could fill up those water bottles throughout the day and drink from their bottles during class.

These are just two school districts that are making changes that can help children grow up at a healthy weight. Read more examples from across the state in the success stories shared online.


  
8/15/2018 9:42 AM

Erin and Liam Callahan hiking Mt Eyak_Web_Web2.jpgIn today’s world, children are often “plugged in.” In a 2017 state survey, 58 percent of Alaska high school students reported that they spend three or more hours a day watching television, playing video games, or using a computer or electronic device for something other than school work.  Actual face-to-face interaction is becoming less common, and Facebook and FaceTime more so. Taking children outside and to the parks, for long or short trips, can teach them the value of “unplugging” at a young age and positively affect their long-term physical and emotional well-being.  

With the increased use of social media, television and video games, time in nature is becoming less common — so much so that author Richard Louv has coined the term “nature deficit disorder” and talks about this phenomenon in his book called “Last Child in the Woods.” In his first chapter, Louv writes “As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may all very well need contact with nature.” It opens up a whole new world, he explains in his book, that children cannot get from time in front of their electronic device.

Matt and Erin Callahan live in Anchorage and both work full-time. They plan their life around getting their children outside on trips of all lengths, keeping these outings varied and incorporating physical activity and learning. Their family recently went to Cordova on the Alaska ferry with their son Liam, 9.  Matt said they chose this form of transportation so they could stay outside and learn about the outdoors, including glaciers, whales, and porpoises. 

“We prefer a slower pace and more education,” he said. In Cordova, they hiked Mt. Eyak as a family. Mt. Eyak is a ski hill in the winter and a popular hike for locals and visitors in the summer. It has a vertical rise of 2,500 feet, covers about 5 miles round trip, and takes two to three hours to hike.

Erin Callahan is a psychiatric nurse practitioner. When her son was born, she felt compelled to brush up on neurodevelopment and learn as much as possible about healthy brain development.  

"Every article and book I read concluded the same thing and that was: Too much connectedness to screens and media is harmful to the developing brain as it undercuts thinking, creativity, physical activity and overall emotional well-being. I always felt this intuitively but reading it over and over really gave me the push I needed to set healthy limits around our kids’ screen time," she said.

To this day, her son does not get screen time during the week and his time is limited on the weekends and in the summer. Erin said that, as a couple, they explain the “why” when their son asks about his television and computer restrictions that his friends don’t have. They explain that his brain and body need outdoor time, time to problem-solve, think creatively and read to develop in a healthy way, and that screen time could limit that. 

They have kept him active since he was a toddler, with gymnastics, soccer, swimming lessons, skiing and outdoor play with friends. He participates in a daily summer camp that prioritizes physical activity all day long. He still plays soccer, is taking a parkour gymnastics class that he loves and participates in a cross country skiing program in the winter. 

“Luckily, I no longer have to look for the research on exercise and its positive effects on the brain,” Erin said.

“Every day I'm writing prescriptions for people to get out and exercise,” she said. “The side effects are fantastic!”

Alaska is filled with opportunities to play outside with your family. You can choose trails; local, state and national parks; and endless activities that can keep kids entertained and connecting with nature, often at no or low cost. National parks are easily accessible, and the Every Kid in the Park Program gives every fourth grader and their family a free national park pass for one year. Alaska has 123 state park units in nine regions, covering 3.3 million acres and endless recreational opportunities year-round.  

Keeping kids active early on can make a huge difference in how they will prioritize activity later in life. It’s never too late to start. Plan a trip with your kids to a park. Ride bikes on a trail and pack a picnic for along the way. Help your kids build a fort in the backyard, encourage them to play outside and set some limits on screen time. Take time during the week to get out there and play.

Resources to learn more

American Academy of Pediatrics 

Create your personalized family media use plan here.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-07</hide>July 2018 ‎(2)
  
7/24/2018 12:34 PM

Farmers market.PNGFarmers markets are open in communities across Alaska, selling locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Many parents come to the markets with their children, and we’ve come up with a way to keep kids busy and learning about what’s growing in local farms. Bring our Farmers Market Bingo Card​ and make a game of trying to find three items in a row or all of the items on the card. 

Farmers Markets are cropping up across Alaska and becoming a popular way to get fresh produce, support local farmers and provide a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy. Depending on the market, there are also activities for kids, petting zoos, music and locally made crafts and foods.

Kelly Gerlach lives in the Glennallen area. There is a Wednesday market in downtown Glennallen at a local business parking lot. You can find fresh produce from a local farm in Slana, baked goods from the area, as well as music and fun activities for the kids.

Kelly’s daughter Brynna, age 13, enjoys the local market.

“I love the market because of the fun crafts, the petting zoo and the independence I feel when I have my own money and can buy my own food,” she said.

The Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough have 26 farmers markets, including five throughout Anchorage, three in Eagle River and the remaining 18 in and around Palmer and Wasilla. If you live nearby, walking or biking to the market is a great option as many markets have bike racks. The Fairbanks area (including Delta Junction and North Pole) has 15 markets, the Kenai area has 13 and the following rural areas have local markets: Bethel, Dillingham, Glennallen, Southeast (Haines and Sitka), and Valdez.

The Mat-Su farms sell fresh produce, eggs and meats in Anchorage. The Center Market, located in the Sears Mall in Anchorage, is the only year-round market. It is open Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. –4 p.m. The market has a wide variety of vendors that sell locally grown meats, vegetables, sprouts, spices, mushrooms and more.

Other markets may have only one vendor, but that vendor will have fresh vegetables, such as Dinkel’s Veggies at the Northway Mall in Anchorage. The Eagle River market at the VFW post is open on Tuesdays and has a handful of vendors with vegetables, pickled foods, jams, homemade crafts and a vendor that serves authentic Mexican food.

Families with lower incomes can purchase affordable fresh produce at the farmers markets. Low-income seniors and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants can use a coupon for up to $30 at participating farmers markets in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Homer, Kenai, Kodiak, Dillingham and the Palmer and Wasilla areas. Visit the State of Alaska’s Division of Public Assistance for more information.

Most markets run from early June to the end of September, at varying days and times, and some end earlier or go even later into the year. Teach your kids healthy eating habits and support local farmers by visiting a market near you. Make it a fun learning experience by taking the Farmers Market Bingo card. Go online to find a farmers market near you. 

  
7/9/2018 11:11 AM

Johanna Herron photo 3.JPGPlanting strawberries in towers, greens in a hydroponic system and carrots in a small swimming pool are just some of the fun activities kids are doing this summer through the Alaska Farm to Summer Meal Program.

Summers can be a challenging and hungry time for children. In Alaska, over half of students qualified for free or reduced lunches during the school year. When the school year comes to a close, these children typically lose access in the summer to the affordable or free meals. To address this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program helps approved sites provide nutritious meals for free to children younger than 18. 

The Farm to Summer Meal Program pairs up with these sites to promote healthy eating by growing their own fruits and vegetables or purchasing them from local farmers and farmers markets. This summer, seven school districts, childcare programs and a 4-H Club are connecting students, food service staff and teachers to healthy local foods and learning about the origins of their food. 

A goal of the Farm to Summer Meal Program is to increase children’s preferences for fruits and vegetables by providing opportunities for hands-on learning for them to grow, harvest, purchase and prepare these healthy foods. The Bethel 4-H Club found kids usually “pass” on the peas during the after-school snack. 

“After planting pea seeds, at least two kids requested peas, which had never happened before,” according to Sharon Chakuchin with the Bethel site. 

The cool temperatures this summer slightly delayed planting, but they haven’t dampened the enthusiasm. 

“Naturally, playing in the dirt was loved by all,” said Natalie Ray with Ray’s Child Care and Learning Center in Palmer. “We use organic dirt, and children use garden gloves and little shovels.” 

This is the third year Loretta Fitting with the Alaska Gateway School District in Tok has participated in the Farm to Summer Meal Program. 

“We love to garden. The kids are always ready to learn new things,” she said. “I am hoping to have them start their own gardens at home.”

The Alaska Division of Agriculture Farm to School Program and the Department of Education and Early Development Child Nutrition Programs initiated the Farm to Summer Meal Program in 2016. This summer, the Department of Health and Social Services, Obesity Prevention and Control Program provided funding for seven programs to participate. 

Everyone can celebrate Alaska’s gardeners, farmers and local food during the 2018 Alaska Farm to Summer Week, July 23-27. Check out the Campaign Toolkit to find activities, recipes and where to find fresh, healthy Alaska Grown foods. 


collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-06</hide>June 2018 ‎(1)
  
6/4/2018 8:41 AM

​Alaska offers many opportunities to get out and play with your kids—camping, hiking, exploring and fun outdoor events—and many communities offer an assortment of kid-friendly runs or events at low or no cost. Getting your kids involved in physical activity is one of the best ways to support positive healthy habits they can take into adulthood.

Mosquito Meander in Fairbanks, Alaska Run for Women in Anchorage

Fairbanks starts its summer with the 2018 Mosquito Meander on June 9, a 5K (3.1 mile) family fun run/walk. This year will be the 26th running of the event, which benefits the Resource Center for Parents & Children. On the same day, Anchorage will have the Alaska Run for Women with 5- and 1-mile events for females of all ages and abilities. The run benefits the fight against breast cancer, with 100% of the donated proceeds going toward mammograms, breast cancer research and education. 

Other events in Seward, Cooper Landing, Palmer and Ketchikan

Here’s a glimpse of what’s going on around the state for kids: 

Fairbanks has four Kids Cross Country (XC) Runs at 6 p.m. every other Friday evening from June 8 through July 20 at the West Valley High School soccer fields. 

Seward Real Estate’s Bear Bells Run 1-mile event for kids is June 8 and Cooper Landing’s Trail Run is June 9. 

Anchorage starts one of four “Splash ‘n Dash” races, a kids-only swim and run at the Service High School Pool on June 26. 

Palmer has a Kilted Mile Race on June 30. It’s a family event and part of the Scottish Highland Games.

Ketchikan hosts the Blueberry Fun Run and Walk on August 4. This includes a 1-mile kid’s run.   

All of the details of these races and more can be found in the Alaska Runner's Calendar.

Leaders who start these races believe in making exercise fun for kids. Tracey Martinson started the Kids XC Runs in Fairbanks about 15 years ago.  She says she started them because there weren't many opportunities for young kids ages 5–10 to run in a timed event that is geared toward their abilities (0.5 mile to 1.5 miles).  

“The goal is to help kids enjoy running, not be overwhelmed by it, as can happen if they enter a 5K race,” she said. “We also have the Equinox Kid’s Marathon, now in its 16th year.”  Find more information on the kid’s marathon here.  

Heather Helzer, a competitive triathlete and ultra-runner, started Alaska Splash n' Dash in Anchorage last year as a way to give kids who are interested in triathlons more competition in Alaska. She wanted kids to have an opportunity to compete or participate in kids-only races. The Alaska Splash n' Dash is a swim/run three-race series, in which kids receive points and awards at the end of the series. 

“The goal is to encourage more kids to get involved in the sport of triathlon without the barrier of needing a bike, keeping the entry to the sport low and the race price low as well,” said Helzer. Prices are $20 for one race and $50 for all three races, which includes a medal at every race, T-shirt, snacks and more. 

Last year, about 40 kids participated in each Splash n’ Dash, with a total of more than 70 kids for the race series. Helzer said she expects 75–100 kids at this year’s races. Life jackets are allowed, and parents can run the entire course with their child. They also encourage the entire family to volunteer if they're unable to race. 

“This is a kids-only fun race with the goal for every kid to finish and have fun,” Helzer said. For more information, visit Turnagain Training.

For more kid-friendly events, visit the Healthy Futures website​.  

collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-05</hide>May 2018 ‎(2)
  
5/21/2018 8:48 AM

Kid's Mile photo with permission of Healthy Futures - resized for Web.jpgThe Eagle River Triathlon is Sunday, June 3, 2018, and it’s a great opportunity to start the summer spending time outdoors with your kids. The triathlon also kicks off a series of summer physical activity events, including the Mayor’s Marathon Kid’s Mile on June 21 and the Anchorage RunFest Kids 2K on August 18.

The Eagle River Tri is a sprint distance triathlon. It has an untimed event for kids ages 6 to 12, as well as timed events for adults and children 13 and older. The intent of the event is to promote a safe and fun introduction to the triathlon, as well as a competitive race for more experienced elite athletes.

Local athlete Liane Nagata has participated in the Eagle River Tri with her daughters, Lauren (20) and Madalyn (15) when they were younger.  She said it was the perfect introduction to triathlons for her daughters, as they later completed the Gold Nugget Triathlon in Anchorage.  

“The event is fun to watch, and once they did it one time, they were ready to do it again,” Nagata said. “They enjoyed it and the organization (of the event) makes it fun and definitely safe for even the littlest kids.”

The entry fees are $30.00 for kids and $108.00 for adults. The online registration deadline is June 1, 2018, or until the event sells out. There is no race-day registration, except for the kids’ race. The kids’ race, however, has a limit of 250 participants.  

The sprint distance for adults is a 500-yard pool swim (10 laps/20 lengths), followed by a 20K (12.4 miles) bike and a 5K (3.1 miles) run.  The kids have a choice of a long course or a short course. The long course includes a 100-yard (two lap) swim, a 2-mile bike, and .8 mile run. The short course includes a 50-yard (one lap) swim, a 2-mile bike, and .8 mile run.

Race director Kristin Folmar says 150-225 kids typically turn out for the Eagle River Tri, which she calls a low-key, no-pressure event. 

“If a kid swims one lap in the pool and wants to get out, that’s an option,” she said. “It is meant to be a fun, safe, positive experience and an event for the whole family. It is a community event, and the kids get to see the adults participate first. The kids get to warm up with pre-game events sponsored by Healthy Futures and Chain Reaction Cycles.”

For more information about the Eagle River Tri, visit the kid’s page on the website. Families who are interested in signing up for other summer events can learn more online.  Information about the Mayor’s Marathon Kid’s Mile on June 21 can be found here. Learn more about the Anchorage RunFest Kids 2K on August 18 at this website. Plan ahead for these fun events! 

Photograph courtesy of Matias Saari, Healthy Futures program


​​
  
5/11/2018 3:20 PM
	 Campbell Creek Trail Map from the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association (APIA) and Anchorage Park Foundation’s “Health on Trails” program

In winter or summer, the trails across Alaska are ideal for great adventures. Some Alaskans use them in a big way, such as mushing dogs almost 1,000 miles along trails during the yearly Iditarod race. Alaska’s health department is partnering with the Anchorage Park Foundation to help many Alaskans use them in an everyday way. Anchorage Park Foundation’s “Health on Trails” program makes it easier for people to learn what trails are nearby, how long it takes to walk them, and how far you can go on trails during a lunch break or after work.

“The Anchorage Park Foundation works hard to improve our parks and trails. However, if people aren’t getting out and enjoying these premier amenities, then we aren’t making the most of our resources,” said Molly Lanphier, with the foundation. “Getting out during the workday is one way that Anchorage residents can take full advantage of Anchorage’s crown jewel.”

Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program worked with the foundation to pilot a worksite wellness map project as part of the Health on Trails initiative. Together they are working with two employers — the Aleutian Pribilof Island Association (APIA) and Catholic Social Services — to connect employees to the parks and trails closest to their worksite and promote workplace wellness.

“The wellness map gives employees the tools, social support, and encouragement to adopt a physically active lifestyle right from their office door” said Karol Fink, program manager for the state’s obesity prevention program.

The custom-designed map shows a safe and interesting walking route that employees can take right from their office door — before, after or during their breaks at work. The maps include the nearby trail’s distance, safety considerations, and a legend that highlights viewpoints, bridges, and other attractions along the path. To learn about the map and walking route, employees were invited to attend a luncheon and take a guided tour of the route with Lanphier from the Park Foundation.

As one example, Catholic Social Services’ map showcases baseball fields, sitting benches, and a warning where sidewalks are not present during the 1.25-mile walk around Tikishla Park. On the back of the map, there are recommendations for changing weather conditions, respecting wildlife, and how to be prepared to enjoy the outdoors.

Encouraging Alaskans to walk on trails before or after work or during breaks is one way to help people of all ages get closer to the nationally recommended amount of daily activity. Many Alaskans are currently falling short. In 2015, 58% of Alaska adults met the recommended 150 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week. In 2017, only 18% of Alaska high school students met the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day of the week. The maps are one way APIA and Catholic Social Services are supporting their employees in making healthy lifestyle choices and promoting physical activity.

“Alaska is unique because the weather and daylight is always changing. Finding opportunities that are safe, enjoyable, and easily accessible is important,” said Inmaly Inthaly from Catholic Social Services. “Walking from our worksite makes a lot of sense because we’re already here.”

Go online to learn more about the Health on Trails program.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-04</hide>April 2018 ‎(2)
  
4/17/2018 1:50 PM

Chad Nading.pngAlaska is a state where high school standouts go on to ski for a gold medal at the Olympics, shoot hoops for the NBA, and play baseball for the big leagues.

That’s Chad Nading’s story – from East High Thunderbird to baseball player for the San Diego Padres system. For Nading, it started with a physically active childhood and continued through years of sticking with the game.

“In 2016, I was sitting on a couch with no opportunities to keep playing, when an independent baseball team — the Wichita Wingnuts — called me,” said Nading, the former four-time Alaska state champion. “They needed help filling innings because they had injuries.”
 
“I had no guarantee I would stay for more than a weekend. It was my decision whether to take a chance and play, or retire from baseball.”
 
Nading took a chance. He earned a permanent spot with the Wingnuts and later signed with the San Diego Padres organization in 2017. He went on to play with the San Antonio Missions.
 
“I took a chance and got the opportunity to prove myself, and it was the best decision I could have made,” he said.
 
Over the years, Nading kept sharpening his skills by coaching with the Alaska Baseball Academy and Notre Dame Preparatory, while giving young athletes the knowledge he wished he had at a younger age. Nading points to his youth as the reason for his success.
 
“I was very active as a kid. Whatever my friends wanted to do – roller hockey, fishing, basketball, football – I was willing to do it,” he said. “My parents were very supportive of my desire to be active, as well as whatever I decided to do.”
 
His experience with sports turned into a passion, which turned into a determination to excel. Nading lettered in multiple sports at Anchorage School District’s East High School, winning state titles in track and field, baseball, and football.
 
“Sports are humbling, especially in the big leagues,” he said. “Staying positive in tough times and confident in good times has led me to where I am. I had to fight through really bad days by telling myself that I was good enough and tomorrow is a new day to show my ability.”
 
Nading encourages youth to be as active as possible and try several sports.
 
“Be coachable, while listening to yourself,” he said. “Take care of yourself by eating well, exercising often.”
 
He had one more reminder: Drink plenty of water. Nading said he remembers to drink water by carrying a bottle with him and filling it up at least four times each day.
 
Photograph courtesy of Chad Nading
  
4/4/2018 8:02 AM

BB5k 2007 067.jpgHave you ever competed in a race when winning meant crossing the finish line before the last note of a song? What about when winning gave you naming rights for a bison? Communities across Alaska are organizing a set of unique races to kick off this spring’s running season.

These events are supported by our partner, Healthy Futures. Thousands of children across Alaska are logging their physical activity this month on their Healthy Futures Challenge logs. These fun events count toward the children’s goal of 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Beat Beethoven in Fairbanks

It’s time to sign up for “Beat Beethoven,” an annual 5K race that kicks off the running season in Fairbanks on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Participants who finish before the last note of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony get a voucher for free admission to a Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra performance. The composer’s well-known symphony is about 31 minutes long, which could make it a quick-paced race on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. 

Early bird registration for this Symphony Orchestra fundraiser ends Monday, April 9, and late registration continues through race day. The race starts at 11 a.m. April 14. Healthy Futures will hand out medals to children who finish.

Run in Portage to name first-born bison

Further south, Portage will be the site for another interesting fun run on April 14, 2018. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center has organized the Bison Run Wild 5K to raise funds to care for the wood bison at the center. The man and woman who win the race will get to name the first bison born this season. Go online for more information and to register for the race that starts at 11 a.m. 

Race for a healthy heart in Anchorage

April brings the 40th annual Alaska Heart Run in Anchorage. A timed race begins at 9:30 a.m. and an untimed race starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Participants can walk or run a 3K or 5K course at the Alaska Airlines Center on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. The event benefits the American Heart Association to pay for research and programs that help address heart disease and stroke. Top finishers in each age group will receive certificates and ribbons. All children in grades 6 and under will receive medals. Go online for more information or to register.

Visit an Alaska events website to find out more about summer events supported by Healthy Futures.

​Photograph courtesy of the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra

collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-03</hide>March 2018 ‎(1)
  
3/12/2018 8:09 AM

Vitamin D.jpgVitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies can make vitamin D when sunlight contacts the skin. During our dark winter months, many Alaskans are getting very little (if any) vitamin D from sunlight exposure, so we need to think about getting the vitamin through foods and supplements. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and may contribute to overall good health.

“Eating healthy foods is always the best option”, says Diane Peck, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with the Alaska Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Healthy foods provide so many more nutrients and other benefits that aren’t found in supplements. But for many people in Alaska, taking a vitamin D supplement along with a healthy diet may be appropriate.”

Lucky for us, some of the foods with the most vitamin D are found in Alaska. Traditional diets protected Alaska Native people during the long, dark winter. Salmon — fresh, canned or smoked — is an excellent source of vitamin D. Marine mammals, fish oil and seal oil contain large amounts of vitamin D. Oysters, shrimp, halibut, flounder, and rock fish are good sources, too. 

Other foods that contain vitamin D include tuna fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and some mushrooms. Vitamin D has also been added to many foods. Look for the words “vitamin D fortified” on packages of milk, soymilk, yogurt, orange juice, oatmeal, and ready-to-eat cereals. For a list of foods and their vitamin D content, see the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
 
The amount of vitamin D needed varies throughout your lifespan. You can learn more about the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-Consumer/. Besides living in a place without much sunlight, other factors may affect vitamin D levels:
 
• People with darker skin don’t produce vitamin D as quickly as people with lighter skin.
• Older adults may not produce vitamin D as well as younger people.
• Breastfeeding is the best choice for the health of infants, but breast milk can be low in vitamin D.
 
If you think you’re not getting enough vitamin D, talk with your health care provider. It is important to note that taking too much vitamin D can have negative effects and may interact with other medications you’re taking.
 
For more information about vitamin D, see this Alaska Section of Epidemiology website and this State of Alaska educational resource.
 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-02</hide>February 2018 ‎(2)
  
2/27/2018 8:47 AM

Spring 2018 HFC map.png​Fifteen years ago, a small nonprofit started a free physical activity challenge to help Alaska children get moving. The hope was to support children to be physically active every day. This would help them grow up healthy and prevent childhood obesity, a serious problem in our state. 

Healthy Futures — a small program with a big goal — has been supporting active children all across Alaska ever since. During the first Healthy Futures Challenge in 2003, just 30 of Alaska’s 400 elementary schools participated. The Healthy Futures program was founded by the late Bonny Sosa Young and her husband Sam Young, parents who were concerned about childhood obesity in Alaska.

Since 2003, more partners started to work with Healthy Futures to support physical activity. Providence Health & Services Alaska is a longtime partner. The United Way of Anchorage supports the program, as does the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, ConocoPhillips, the Alaska Kidney Foundation and others. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Obesity Prevention and Control Program and its Play Every Day campaign became a partner for the 2012 Spring Challenge, and that partnership continues today. Now, Healthy Futures is run through another organization called the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

Participation took off as more organizations started working with Healthy Futures to promote the same goal of active Alaska kids. Look at how the program has grown:

  • First Challenge during the 2003-2004 school year: 30 schools, 2,300 participating children
  • Spring 2012 Challenge: 110 schools, almost 7,000 participating children
  • Fall 2017 Challenge: 165 schools, more than 14,000 participating children
  • Spring 2018 Challenge: About 175 schools signed up for the Challenge that runs February through April, 2018

“It's nice to see the growth of the Healthy Futures program over the years, but it's especially gratifying to know that the essence of Healthy Futures has never really wavered during that time,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “The mission and the core programs have always been fundamentally sound and that is a testament to Bonny Sosa's vision.”

It’s not too late for schools to sign up for the Spring Challenge online. The Spring Challenge runs in February, March and April. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The challenge is free to schools and students. Students who successfully log their physical activity each month of the challenge win a prize from Healthy Futures.

Staff at interested schools can contact alyse@healthyfuturesak.org to learn about signing up for this and future physical activity challenges. Parents can ask their children if their elementary schools are participating in the challenge (almost half of them are), and can help support their kids to complete the physical activity goals each month.

The map of schools participating in the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge was created in mid February, 2018.

  
2/20/2018 11:56 AM

Dr. Tucker and IsaiahState health leaders focused on obesity prevention are working with Alaska dental providers to help reduce sugary drink consumption among children and families.

During January and February, Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program staff visited Bethel and Utqiagvik to train more than 80 dentists, dental assistants, and dental health aide therapists, as well as pharmacists, pediatricians, physician assistants and diabetes prevention professionals. The providers with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and Arctic Slope Native Association learned how to use a new, brief guide called “When Sugar is Not So Sweet.”

The trained dental providers are now using the guide to talk with families about the large amount of sugar hiding in many drinks, the health risks linked to that added sugar, and steps families can take to cut back on sugary drinks and choose water or milk instead. The brief guide is available for free online. A rack card about picking a plan to cut back on sugary drinks also is available online.

“This training gave our entire team knowledge and tools that we need to influence an efficient change in our community,” said Dr. Tucker Burnett, a dentist with YKHC. “With this training, we are better equipped to reach out and help adjust our patients’ thinking about what they drink.”

The new guide for dental providers offers another strategy to talk with families about the risks of eating and drinking too much sugar. Sugary drinks are the number one source of added sugar in people’s daily diets.

“Too many of Alaska’s children and adults are drinking sugary beverages, often every single day,” said Karol Fink, the Obesity Prevention and Control Program manager who conducted the trainings. “About 40 percent of Alaska high school students report drinking at least one sugary drink every day. Almost 25 percent of Alaska adults say they drink a sugary drink every day.”

Just one sugary drink can have more added sugar than children and adults should have in one day, based on the added sugar limits in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Helping Alaskans cut back on added sugar can help prevent serious health problems that may start in childhood and last a lifetime, Fink said. These health problems include cavities, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In Alaska, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. About 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese.

The training offered for YKHC and Arctic Slope dental staff is part of a two-year pilot Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project. The project is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve dental health and prevent obesity and other chronic diseases in Alaska. The pilot is supported by the Alaska Dental Society; the Alaska Women’s, Children’s and Family Health, Oral Health program; and dental providers across the state.

The Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project also includes new public education materials focused on reducing sugary drink consumption. Two public service announcements will air on television and online this spring. One video announcement shows how cutting back on sugary drinks can help prevent serious health problems, including tooth decay and type 2 diabetes. The other video shows parents switching out unhealthy food items for healthier options at meals, but stresses that parents would be doing more to protect their children’s health if they also stopped serving them sugary drinks and served water or milk instead. Parents and their children also will see educational posters hanging in hundreds of schools across Alaska, as well as in public health centers, medical and dental clinics, and in Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) offices. Alaskans will find related videos and educational posts on social media.

Visit our website to learn more about the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project. Dental providers who want to know more about the guide can contact playeveryday@alaska.gov.

Photograph: Dr. Tucker Burnett and dental assistant Isaiah Anvil with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation received training to use the brief dental guide called "When Sugar Is Not So Sweet."

 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2018-01</hide>January 2018 ‎(3)
  
1/30/2018 9:17 AM

PLAAY logo.jpgKids at Auntie Mary Nicoli Elementary in Aniak are getting ready to play. So are kids at elementary schools in Craig, Glennallen, Ketchikan, Kiana, Manokotak, Nightmute and White Mountain.

Around the state, about 80 elementary schools and groups have signed up to help children complete a half hour of organized physical activity — all at the same time in communities across the state. They will be participating in the second PLAAY Day, scheduled for Thursday morning, Feb. 22, 2018. PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. Our partner, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, is running PLAAY Day to help Alaska children get active for good health.

It’s not too late for schools to sign up to participate. PLAAY organizers are hoping for at least 150 participating schools, so thousands of children across the state have the opportunity to be physically active on PLAAY Day.

“The goal behind PLAAY Day is to galvanize communities to encourage children to be physically active,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “A shared physical activity — especially on the grand scale of our state — has the potential to create enthusiasm around the cause.”

At 10 a.m. that morning, children will participate in a half hour of physical activity in school gyms, classrooms, recreation centers, common spaces or even outside. Students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation along with Anchorage-based youth will lead the children in an organized and synchronized fun session of activity. Children will be able to participate at their appropriate levels and physical abilities. Physical activities included during PLAAY Day will be able to be modified and adapted to include students of all abilities, Robinson said.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and GCI will link all of these schools and groups through a free, live videoconferencing session. Schools and organizations can participate in different ways, from toll free dialing into a conference with video playing at their location to interactive video teleconference participation.

Schools can sign up now for PLAAY DAY and will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer. Interested schools and groups can register as an entire school, a classroom, a home school, or an organization.

Along with organizing PLAAY Day, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame will run the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 23 and 24, 2018, in Anchorage at ANTHC. The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The PLAAY Summit also will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health.

Partners of the PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit include Healthy Futures, ANTHC, GCI, the Alaska Center for Pediatrics, Alaska Airlines, Children’s Hospital at Providence, the Anchorage School District, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Play Every Day, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, University of Alaska Anchorage, Vidyo, The Alaska Club, Anchorage Running Club, LaTouche Pediatrics, Alaska Pediatric Therapy, Bear Tooth, Kaladi Brothers, and others.

To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wallace Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Harlow Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org.

  
1/15/2018 7:47 AM

Dawson and Zach hydracelet.JPG

A group of 10 elementary and middle school boys in Fairbanks have invented a device to get you thinking about how much water you drink every day.

They did their research this year and learned that kids — and adults — don’t always drink enough water every day for the best health. They want to help you remember to drink water every day, and they designed an original bracelet to help you do that. They named it the Hydracelet.

These boys have a special name, too. They’re called the Philosophers, which is the team name for their Lego Robotics competition. They work together through the Interior Distance Education of Alaska (IDEA) homeschool program in Fairbanks. Lego Robotics involves building and programming robots to accomplish tasks. Each year, the First Lego League competition also comes with a research topic. This year’s topic is hydrodynamics. Each group had to come up with a water-related challenge and design a plan to tackle it. The Philosophers chose to explore ways to help people who don’t drink enough water every day. 

 “I was one of those kids who didn’t drink enough water, until I used the Hydracelet,” said 12-year-old Dawson Cooper, a seventh-grader on the Philosophers team.

It turns out the Hydracelet was a winning idea. The Philosophers won the Best Project award during the Fairbanks Lego Robotics regional qualifier in December, so the team and their Hydracelets will be in Anchorage this Saturday, January 20, 2018, for the statewide Lego Robotics competition at Dimond High School.

“We’re going to give them to the judges so they can see how they work,” Dawson said.

When designing the Hydracelet, Dawson talked with Fairbanks pediatrician Dr. Letha Archer to learn more about water and good health. Dr. Archer said not drinking enough water is definitely a problem she has seen in her 22 years of practice. Dehydration can lead to constipation and headaches, she said. Water also helps your body maintain a normal temperature, cushion the joints, and get rid of waste through sweating and urination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I see a lot of kids who drink the wrong kinds of drinks, so I push water,” Dr. Archer said. The wrong kinds of drinks, she said, are those with added sugar, like soda, sports drinks, and sweetened fruit drinks. These drinks can hurt teeth, and lead to weight gain and obesity, she said. Water, on the other hand, has no added sugar and no calories.

Dr. Archer said she thinks the Philosophers are working on a great research project and she was impressed by the Hydracelet. The team worked with an online company to order blue silicone bracelets in adult and youth sizes that say “Hydracelet” on the inside and have the numbers 1 through 8 printed in a large white font on the outside. Each number stands for one, 8-ounce glass of water. Then the group worked with a 3D printer in the Fairbanks area to create a square-shaped slider that wraps around the bracelet. Each time you drink an 8-ounce glass of water, you move the slider up a number. When the slider reaches 8, you know you have consumed eight glasses of water, or 64 ounces, that day.

How much water you need every day depends on a number of factors: your age, weight, overall health, physical activity level, and more. The Mayo Clinic says 8, 8-ounce glasses of water a day is “easy to remember, and it’s a reasonable goal.” Some people might eed more, and some might need less. Dr. Archer said 64 ounces of water a day is a good target in general for older school-age children and adults.

Zach Burgess, a 12-year-old Philosophers team member who lives in North Pole, said he didn’t drink that much water each day before wearing the Hydracelet. He said he drank only two to three glasses of water a day, and thinks this led to a lot of headaches. He’s been wearing a Hydracelet for the past two months and said he moves the slider over to eight glasses of water most days.

“Every time I look at my wrist and it’s a low number, it reminds me to drink more water,” Zach said.
 
The boys started with a limited quantity of Hydracelets, only about 200. They raised funds to pay for this first batch and sell them for a few dollars each, putting the proceeds toward buying more. Dawson said they are hoping to raise enough money to buy Hydracelets that they can give away to hospitals, clinics and schools in the Fairbanks area. Dawson said he hopes handing out Hydracelets will help teach kids the importance of drinking water for good health. Zach said he hopes children around Alaska — and maybe around the country — will wear them.
 
You can learn more about the Philosophers and their Hydracelet project on Facebook. The team also has an Etsy page for the bracelet.
 
Photograph: Dawson Cooper, left, and Zach Burgess, right, wear their Hydracelets to help remind them to drink water. 
 
  
1/2/2018 10:52 AM

HollyBrooks_web.jpgHolly Brooks is a name many Alaska children may recognize.

They likely heard her voice telling jokes or sharing messages about the benefits of physical activity and the Healthy Futures Challenge during morning announcements at school.

Or they may have seen the Olympic cross country skier on TV in a Play Every Day public service announcement.

Or maybe she has even visited their school to speak to students about healthy activity choices and choosing milk or water instead of sugary drinks.

Brooks is a big name in Alaska sports, and she just received one more honor. Brooks will soon be inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

When considering candidates, the selection panel considers how much pride an individual brings to Alaskans, said Harlow Robinson, executive director of Healthy Futures and the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

“Holly is a great example of an Alaskan we can all be proud of,” Robinson said.

Brooks is a former member of the United States Ski Team. She earned seven top-10 finishes in World Cup races and two national championship wins. She skied in two Olympic Winter Games. In 2013, Brooks helped the U.S. team win a World Cup relay medal. Brooks has also won the 50K Tour of Anchorage and 55K American Birkebeiner marathon races, along with several prestigious in-state mountain races including Mount Marathon, Bird Ridge, and Lost Lake.

Brooks said she is honored and humbled to be named to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

“I think it is really important for kids to be introduced to healthy role models and people they can look up to, and it’s amazing to be identified as one of those role models for the state,” she said.

Brooks has been a spokesperson for Healthy Futures and the Play Every Day campaign since the earliest days of her professional career. She said the opportunity these programs have provided to meet thousands of kids and share positive messages with them has been one of the highlights of her career.

“Probably one of my favorite parts about being a professional athlete is the platform you get to speak from as an Olympian,” she said. “I love going into the schools and meeting the kids. Not every kid is exposed to healthy activity and lifestyle choices at home, so being able to be that person in a kid’s life is really special.”

Robinson said that passion is one of the reasons Brooks was selected for the award.

“Her dedication to giving back to the community speaks to the kind of person Holly is, and illustrates the positive impact she's had in Alaska,” he said. “Holly has been a tremendous spokesperson.”

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-12</hide>December 2017 ‎(1)
  
12/12/2017 1:45 PM

140412 Play Every Day-1926 web.jpg​The holiday season is in full swing, and communities across the state have planned fun ways to be physically active outdoors with your family.

Dec. 16, 2017
Celebrate the Solstice. Go for a walk in the woods in Eagle River, snowshoe in Fairbanks, or head out for a run in Willow.
The Eagle River Nature Center invites you to bring your lantern, or borrow one of theirs, to light your way along the trails to a bonfire. The free event runs from 6-8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 16. Participants can bring nonperishable food items to donate to the Eagle River Food Bank. Find out more online.

If you live in the Fairbanks area, sign up for the free Solstice Snowshoe Shuffle at noon, Dec. 16. Participants will shuffle along a 1-mile loop. Don’t have your own snowshoes? Don’t worry. The event organizers have extra snowshoes available for participants. Learn more at on Facebook.
 
Willow has put out quite the invitation online: “We want to encourage people to come to Willow and run in the dead of winter!” The Willow Winter Solstice Marathon Races also take place Dec. 16 with several options for those interested in shorter or longer runs. There will be a 5K, a half marathon and a marathon. Each course will be on winter trails. The event’s website is filled with words of caution, letting potential participants know they should be prepared for cold temperatures and varying types of weather. The website includes reminders to train for cold weather, pack extra clothes, and consider bringing snowshoes and spiked shoes. “You may need them!” the website said. Read more about this event online.
 
Dec. 17, 2017
Got skis? Great if you do, but don’t worry if you don’t.
Come to Kincaid Park in Anchorage from 4-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17, for the second Solstice Tree Tour. The whole family can ski — or walk — in the woods. Adults and children of all abilities are welcome. Trees along 2.5K of the Mize Loop will be decorated by local businesses and organizations, including our partner Healthy Futures. Find out more about the Tree Tour.
 
Dec. 31, 2017
Run — or dance — into the New Year.
Wrap up 2017 on a healthy note with your family. Join the Resolution Run New Year's Eve near the Alaska Pacific University campus in Anchorage. At 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, participants will run or walk 5K of roads and wooded trails decorated with a fun light and music display. The event starts and ends with a party at the Atwood Center. Watch an online video about the run and learn more online.
 
For other December fun runs, check out the 2017 Alaska Runner’s Calendar.
 
Mark your calendar or sign up early. A popular ski event for kids is coming up soon.
The annual Ski4Kids Day is set for Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, at Kincaid Chalet in Anchorage. The event features short ski races ranging from 1K to 3K that are timed or untimed. Children receive a medal and goody bag for finishing. Ski4Kids features many other winter activities, too. These include obstacle courses, a mock biathlon, and more. There is no participant fee for Ski4Kids, but a donation goes toward the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage to provide ski equipment to schools and youth groups. Registration is available online. Find out more about the event.
 
 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-11</hide>November 2017 ‎(2)
  
11/27/2017 8:31 AM

Even One Is Too Much-web.jpgAdded sugars are getting more and more attention as a public health concern. Kids eat them in sweetened cereal at breakfast. They’re in granola bars and other snacks. Sugar can be added to the ketchup on burgers; the sauce on spaghetti; and the cookies, cakes or ice cream at dessert.

But do you know how children get most of their added sugar each day?

They drink it.

About half of the added sugar kids get each day comes from beverages, which makes cutting back on sugary drinks an important step in improving health. There is evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Even one sugary drink can exceed a child’s recommended daily limit of added sugar from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Some Alaska communities are taking action to limit the negative health effects of sugary drinks. The North Slope Borough School Board in Utqiagvik passed a district policy during August 2017 that means sodas and other carbonated beverages will no longer be allowed on their elementary- and middle-school campus during school hours.

Brian Freeman from North Slope Borough School District (NSBSD) described their new policy on a success story panel at the recent 2017 School Health & Wellness Institute

The effort started as a “Stop the Pop” pledge for players on the Barrow high school football and volleyball teams who decided to cut out drinking soda during the season. This then expanded to their booster club’s decision to stop selling soda at after-school sporting events. The effort has now become a school district policy, designating entire school buildings as “soda-free.” 

Going above and beyond

School districts across the state are updating their school wellness policies to align with federal regulations that require foods and beverages sold on campus to be nutritious and promote health.

North Slope wellness team members knew they’d need to update their policy to meet federal regulations, but they said they didn’t think the minimum regulations went far enough. The North Slope Borough School District wellness policy goes above and beyond the minimum regulations to address the concerns of their communities and promote student health. While districts across the country are working to ensure that drinks sold on campus during the school day meet nutrition standards, the North Slope team decided they wanted their school campuses to be “soda-free.” Beginning with their elementary and middle schools, all drinks provided to students for free and brought from home must also meet the Smart Snacks in School beverage criteria. The district team may decide to include high schools in the future. 

North Slope isn’t the only school district taking steps to address sugary drinks at school. Schools across the state are spreading the word about sugars hiding in everyday drinks. The latest posters in the Play Every Day sugary drink education campaign were mailed out to be displayed in about 180 elementary schools that signed up to participate in the Fall 2017 Healthy Futures Challenge.

School districts like North Slope Borough know how important good health is to academic achievement and are doing what they can to help students be healthy and successful learners. Other districts can consider changes that work for their school campuses. Visit this site for more information about Alaska School Wellness policies and Be a School Wellness Champion.

  
11/6/2017 9:35 AM

PLAAY logo.jpgAlaska elementary schools and groups are signing up to help kids complete a half hour of organized physical activity — all at the same time in communities across the state.

These young students will be participating in the second PLAAY Day, scheduled for Thursday morning, Feb. 22, 2018. PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. Our partner, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, is running PLAAY Day to help Alaska children get active for good health.

During the first PLAAY Day in February 2017, more than 100 schools and organizations participated.

"We were thrilled to bring 10,000 Alaska youth from across the state together for a shared experience,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and co-organizer of PLAAY Day. “We look forward to growing those numbers with the 2018 PLAAY Day."
 
During PLAAY Day, schools and groups across Alaska will organize a half-hour session at 10 a.m. when students in school gyms, classrooms, recreation centers, common spaces or even outside will get up and get moving. Students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation along with Anchorage-based youth will lead the children in an organized — and synchronized — fun session of physical activity. Children will be able to participate at their appropriate levels and physical abilities. Physical activities included during PLAAY Day will be able to be modified and adapted to include students of all abilities, Robinson said.
 
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and GCI will link all of these schools and groups through a free, live videoconferencing session. Schools and organizations can participate in different ways, from toll free dialing into a conference with video playing at their location to interactive video teleconference participation.
 
"Thanks to technological support from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and GCI, we've been able to connect children from every corner of the state around a common cause,” Robinson said.
 
Physical activity is linked with many benefits, including increased concentration and focus at school, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, and improved overall health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PLAAY Day will help Alaska kids get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity needed every day for the best health. It will help children complete the February Healthy Futures Challenge, when kids across Alaska will be logging their daily physical activity through logs distributed at elementary schools. PLAAY Day also supports the implementation of Alaska’s Physical Activity in Schools Law, which calls on districts to establish guidelines to provide opportunities for almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.
 
Schools can sign up now for PLAAY DAY and will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer. Interested schools and groups can register as an entire school, a classroom, a home school, or an organization.
 
Along with organizing PLAAY Day, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame will run the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 23 and 24, 2018, in Anchorage at ANTHC. The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The PLAAY Summit also will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health.
 
Partners of the PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit include Healthy Futures, ANTHC, GCI, the Alaska Center for Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital at Providence, the Anchorage School District Department of Health and Physical Education, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Maniilaq Association, Play Every Day, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, University of Alaska Anchorage, The Alaska Club, Anchorage Running Club, Bear Tooth, Kaladi Brothers, and others.
 
To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wallace Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Harlow Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-10</hide>October 2017 ‎(2)
  
10/23/2017 8:05 AM

AKWellnessGuide_YoungChildren_thumb.pngAbout 1 out of 3 Alaska children is overweight or obese. It’s important to prevent unhealthy weight gain at a young age. Along with families, child care and early education providers can play a big role in helping Alaska’s youngest children grow up at a healthy weight.

Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program has published a new guide for these providers to help children grow up healthy, active, and ready to learn. The Wellness Guidelines for Alaska’s Young Children: A Toolkit for Child Care Providers and Families are designed to help providers and families develop environments that support and encourage healthy eating, active play, and reduced screen and media time to help young children grow up at a healthy weight and develop healthy habits for life.
 
“It’s important for child care staff, families and other caregivers to be on the same page for young children’s health,” said Diane Peck, a registered dietitian and Early Care and Education Obesity Prevention Specialist for Alaska. “The Wellness Guidelines provide tips for parents to use at home, as well as ideas for child care newsletters and events that can help inform and engage parents. Families can join child care providers in planning programs and activities to prevent childhood obesity and encourage healthy living.”
 
The Wellness Guidelines provide quick and easy information on a variety of topics for obesity prevention in child care facilities. Each topic contains practical tips and ideas for healthy activities in child care facilities or day care homes. These ideas include ways to keep kids active when it’s too cold or wet outside, the healthiest beverages to serve to young children, and ways to support breastfeeding mothers. The Wellness Guidelines contain resources on healthy activities, policies, kids’ books, and more.
 
Alaska’s new Guidelines are based on the national Caring for Our Children Health and Safety Standards that can help prevent childhood obesity. These health and safety standards are the best practices, policies, and procedures for nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding, and screen and media time that should be followed in today’s child care settings. The Caring for Our Children standards meet or exceed the Alaska Licensing Statutes and Regulations (7 AAC 57) and the Municipality of Anchorage Code (Chapter 16.55).
 
Alaska’s new publication includes a section on traditional foods. Serving traditional foods recognizes the cultural and ethnic preferences of children and broadens all children’s experiences with food. Many foods that grow wild in Alaska are part of a traditional Alaska Native diet. Foods such as wild game meats, fish, seafood, plants, and berries are very nutritious and can be served in child care settings when proper food safety guidelines are followed. Use of these foods can address the cultural and ethnic preferences of many children, encourage community and family engagement, and reduce dependency on store-bought foods.
 
The Wellness Guidelines for Alaska’s Young Children were developed by the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program with input from the Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids – Early Care and Education Work Group. This work group brings together people interested in addressing childhood obesity in the child care and early education settings. The group consists of Head Start and individual child care providers, as well as organizations that provide licensing, training, and support for child care centers, such as thread, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Alaska Child Care Program Office, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC). The group hosts a listserv to provide up-to-date, Alaska-specific information on childhood obesity prevention issues for child care providers. You can click here to join the listserv.
 
You can learn more about healthy eating and active play in child care facilities by clicking here. If you have a question about childhood obesity prevention, contact Peck at diane.peck@alaska.gov or (907) 269-8447.
  
10/9/2017 8:09 AM

Water closeup for blog 100917.PNGIt’s just one sugary drink for your child. That can’t be so bad, right?

But week after week, year after year, the effects of all that sugar add up.

Sugary drinks can lead to type 2 diabetes. They can destroy your children’s teeth.

These are the opening lines of a new educational video that is being shared with parents across Alaska this fall to motivate families to drink fewer sugary drinks for the best health. This video and other educational materials are part of a new partnership between Alaska Department of Health and Social Services program directors working on obesity prevention and dental health. These programs have a similar goal: reduce sugary drink consumption among Alaska families to improve the health of their entire bodies from their mouths to their waistlines to the health of their hearts and blood vessels. Sugary drinks include sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, powdered mixes, sports and energy drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, vitamin drinks, and soda.

This two-year pilot Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project is being funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve dental health and prevent obesity and other chronic diseases in Alaska. The pilot is supported by the Alaska Dental Society and dental providers across the state. In Alaska, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. About 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. During the 2010-11 school year, dentists under contract with the Alaska Oral Health Program examined the teeth of young children in Alaska and found 41% of kindergartners had a filling or an untreated cavity on at least one tooth at the time of the screening. Rates of past or present cavities were even higher in third-graders, with 62% of students having past or present decay on at least one tooth at the time of the screening.

Reducing sugary drink consumption can help Alaskans improve their health, given that many Alaskans drink too many sugary beverages and they’re drinking them every single day. Just one sugary drink such as one 20-ounce bottle of soda with 16 teaspoons of sugar has more added sugar than people should have in one day based on the added sugar limits in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• About 23% of Alaska adults and 42% of Alaska high school students drink one of more sodas or sugary drinks every day (2015 BRFSS, 2015 YRBS)
• One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and two out of three parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week. (2014 Play Every Day Statewide Telephone Survey)

Beginning this month, Alaskans will see new public education materials focused on reducing sugary drink consumption. They will see two public service announcements airing on television and online. One video announcement shows how cutting back on sugary drinks can help prevent serious health problems, including tooth decay and type 2 diabetes. The other video shows parents switching out unhealthy food items for healthier options at meals, but stresses that parents would be doing more to protect their children’s health if they also stopped serving them sugary drinks and served water or low-fat milk instead. Parents and their children also will see educational posters hanging in hundreds of schools across Alaska, as well as in public health centers, medical and dental clinics, and in Women, Infants, and Children offices. Alaskans will find related videos and educational posts on social media.

The Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project will include a special guide to help dentists and dental hygienists have a brief conversation with young Alaska children and their parents during routine dental exams about the health harms of sugary drinks. The guide will help dental providers ask their patients about sugary drinks, advise patients to reduce consumption, and assist these patients in coming up with a plan to reduce the sugary drinks in their diets and replace them with water and milk.

To learn more about this partnership, visit the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project or contact playeveryday@alaska.gov.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-09</hide>September 2017 ‎(2)
  
9/19/2017 8:31 AM

Nick Hanson photo for Mat-Su Policy blog.jpgHealthy students learn better. Multiple studies show that school districts can achieve better overall test scores, grades, and attendance rates by helping students stay healthy by eating nutritious foods and being physically active.

One way to improve the health of Alaska students is helping school districts pass and implement a strong school wellness policy (also known as a student nutrition and physical activity policy). Evidence of the importance of a strong school wellness policy is so clear that the federal government has mandated that every school district receiving funds for school breakfast or lunch has a current policy.
 
Alaska School Districts Putting Policy into Action
The Mat-Su Borough School District is one district that recently approved a new wellness policy that limits the sale and marketing of sugary drinks and junk foods in schools, while increasing support for physical activity and physical education.
 
The Mat-Su district updated its wellness policy at the June 7, 2017, school board meeting. District wellness team member Jana DePriest was enthusiastic about the new policy.
 
“We want our students to be healthy and have every advantage to achieve their potential,” DePriest said. “This policy update is in line with efforts we’ve been working on in the district for years, from our 2015 health education curriculum update, our efforts to increase healthy options in school stores, and our partnership with the Mat-Su Health Foundation for mini-grants to increase physical activity in schools.” 
 
Mat-Su and other school districts across Alaska are putting their wellness policies into action. A few successes of Alaska school districts have been highlighted in the Play Every Day blog posts below:
 
Now is the time to help Alaska schools update their wellness policies
While most districts have a school wellness policy in place, new state and federal regulations mean most Alaska districts need to update their wellness policies. New regulations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) went into effect June 30, 2017. Rather than just requiring districts to have a wellness policy on the books, the USDA now requires districts to report on wellness policy implementation, and gives additional guidance on involving the community in developing and updating these policies. Since 2014, the USDA Smart Snacks nutrition standards specifically require that snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, á la carte lines and fundraising efforts during the school day are nutritious and promote health. The USDA also now restricts marketing and advertising on school grounds using the same standards. If a food or beverage does not meet the Smart Snacks standards, it cannot be marketed or advertised at school. You can test your knowledge on changes to the USDA wellness policy guidelines with this six-question short quiz.
 
A new law in Alaska also impacts wellness policies. Alaska’s Physical Activity in Schools Law (click here for full text and more information) went into effect October 16, 2016. All schools must establish guidelines to provide opportunities for nearly an hour of physical activity for students in grades K-8 during each full school day. Districts across the state are making creative changes to ensure that students are up and moving through physical education, recess, and in-classroom activities. 
 
You can get involved to make your district a success story, too. Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program joined the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development Child Nutrition Program to develop a Gold Standard School Wellness policy that meets all state and federal requirements. A similar update to the Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB) model wellness policy (BP 5040 ‘Student Nutrition and Physical Activity’) was shared with AASB subscribing districts in April 2017.  Check out this site for more information about Alaska School Wellness policies and Be a School Wellness Champion.
 
For more information about school wellness policies, contact Lauren Kelsey, Obesity Prevention School Partnership Coordinator, at lauren.kelsey@alaska.gov.
 
Photograph caption:  Nick Hanson, an American Ninja Warrior contestant from Unalakleet, visits Meadow Lakes Elementary in the Mat-Su Borough School District in 2017 to help students try some of his obstacles and teach them about the large amount of sugar hiding in sugary drinks.
  
9/5/2017 8:44 AM

H2O2GO_Sideview.JPGThousands of young children from Anchorage to the Mat-Su Valley to Fairbanks will be racing along trails this September during the annual Cross Country Running Jamborees and similar fun runs.

The Anchorage School District is organizing three Running Jamborees, the North Star Borough School District in Fairbanks is organizing several races, and the Mat-Su Borough School District is scheduling one running event. 

The annual fall running events for children have a long history in Alaska. The Anchorage elementary school running events started almost 30 years ago and have expanded over the years to include multiple Jamborees throughout the city, said Melanie Sutton, curriculum coordinator for ASD’s Health and Physical Education Department. This fall, there are three, free running Jamborees in the North Anchorage area, South Anchorage area, and Beach Lake area. Many Anchorage schools help their students get ready for the fun runs by organizing after-school running clubs.
 
The ASD Health and Physical Education (PE) Department partners with the Healthy Futures program, Play Every Day, local athletes and Olympians, and others to organize the Anchorage Jamborees that will attract about 5,000 Anchorage kids across the city. Elementary students will run different distances, depending on their ages. The race course length ranges from about ½ mile to 1 mile. All kids will receive medals when they reach the finish line.
 
New this year for participants and attendees will be a special water trailer from Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility (AWWU). Play Every Day and the staff operating the utility’s “H2O 2GO water trailer” will work together to help participants quench their thirst before and after racing. The H2O 2GO trailer is equipped with multiple drinking fountains and water bottle fill-up taps for thirsty runners and observers.
 
“Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility is responsible for providing our community with a healthy and reliable drinking water supply,” said Chris Kosinski, AWWU public affairs. “The Utility’s H2O 2GO water station gives students, parents and family members a fun, easy way to stay hydrated at the Jamborees.”
 
Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming Anchorage Cross Country Running Jamborees:
 
North Anchorage Jamboree — Wednesday, Sept. 20, starting at 5:30 p.m., with an optional walk-through of the race course beginning at 5:00 p.m. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Bartlett High School.
 
The ASD teachers coordinating the North Jamboree are Ben Elbow and Jill Singleton, both Rogers Park PE teachers.
 
South Anchorage Jamboree — Saturday, Sept. 23, starting at 10 a.m., with an optional walk-through of the race course beginning at 9:30 a.m. The Jamboree will be held at the trails near Service High School.
 
The ASD teachers coordinating the South Jamboree are Michel Woods, Abbott Loop PE teacher, and Nick Leiser, Trailside PE teacher.
 
Beach Lake (Eagle River) Jamboree — Thursday, Sept. 28, starting at 5:30 p.m., with an optional walk-through of the race course beginning at 5 p.m. The Jamboree will be held at the Chugiak High School soccer fields and trails.
 
The ASD teachers coordinating the Beach Lake Jamboree are Caela Nielsen, Ravenwood PE teacher, and Chris Ruggles, Eagle River Elementary PE teacher.
 
Parents are encouraged to pre-register their children for the Anchorage Jamborees at their schools. All children must have a signed waiver before participating in the event. Ask your child’s physical education teacher for more information about the Anchorage Jamboree in your area.
 
Here are the dates, times and locations for the upcoming running events in the Fairbanks area:
 
• Salcha Elementary School — Thursday, Sept. 7, starting at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Courtney Miklos at courtney.miklos@k12northstar.org
 
• Chena Lakes Recreation Area — Thursday, Sept. 14, starting at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Norm Davis at norm.davis@k12northstar.org
 
• Chena Lakes Recreation Area — Thursday, Sept. 21, starting at 5:30 p.m. The host for this event is North Pole Elementary. For more information, contact Allison Bartlett at allison.bartlett@k12northstar.org.
 
The running event planned for the Mat-Su Valley is called the Mat-Su Elementary Cross Country Championships and will start at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Palmer High School. Fourth- and fifth-grade students can participate in the event. For more information, please contact Lyle Busbey at lyle.busbey@matsuk12.us.
 
Look for other physical activity events and fun runs for families on the Healthy Futures calendar. A fall running tradition in Anchorage begins next week with the Tuesday Night Race series. The series starts Sept. 12 and will take place every Tuesday through Nov. 7.
 
Photograph courtesy of the Anchorage Water & Wastewater Utility
 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-08</hide>August 2017 ‎(3)
  
8/28/2017 10:17 AM

HealthyFuturesLogo.pngPhysical education, health and classroom teachers across Alaska have volunteered their time to help make the free Healthy Futures Challenge run for so many years. Due to their involvement, thousands of young children have been able to participate six months every school year in a physical activity challenge that awards prizes for logging daily activity.

The Fall Healthy Futures Challenge begins Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in more than 170 schools in 32 school districts across Alaska. This year, teachers in these schools will be able to benefit, too — in a new way. Teachers who coordinate the Challenge at their schools will be able to apply for one continuing education credit. They can do that after registering and completing an online course called “EDPE 590: Healthy Futures for Elementary Educators,” offered through the University of Alaska Anchorage.

"We are always looking for ways to provide value to the teachers who agree to champion the Healthy Futures Challenge at their respective schools,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and Healthy Futures. “Providing continuing education credits is a tangible way we can honor their role in the partnership."

The online course costs $74 and was developed by Healthy Futures with support from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Teachers who sign up for the course must complete all parts of the Healthy Futures Challenge. That includes registration; entering all three physical activity log periods in September, October, and November; and distributing prizes to participating students. Teachers also need to complete several short assignments that include posting to a discussion board and sharing ideas among other teachers coordinating the Healthy Futures Challenge at their schools. More information about the course can be found on the syllabus. Interested teachers can find out how to register online. Questions about the course should be directed to Alyse Loran at Healthy Futures. She can be reached at alyse@healthyfuturesak.org or (907) 360-6331.

Starting Sept. 1, students participating in the Healthy Futures Challenge will keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. Students can count active time in gym class and during recess.

Is your child’s school signed up for the Fall Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online.

  
8/21/2017 11:57 AM

SHWI logo.png​The 12th Annual School Health & Wellness Institute (SHWI) will be held Oct. 30 – Nov. 1, 2017, at the BP Energy Center in Anchorage. Registration is free and is required to attend. 

This three-day institute provides professional development to educators on all aspects of student and school health. Sessions will enable school health professionals to acquire the knowledge and resources to develop and support students in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, social and emotional learning, mental health, Internet safety, trauma-informed schools, youth risk behaviors, current substance abuse issues, school environmental health, bullying, and more.

The 2017 SHWI begins Monday, Oct. 30, with four preconference sessions (check the website for some preconference requirements). The conference continues Tuesday, Oct. 31, with six plenary sessions, and Wednesday, Nov. 1, with 15 breakout presentations. A full agenda can be found here.

The Institute began in 2006 as a collaboration between the Departments of Education and Early Development and Health and Social Services to provide school staff with the skills and resources to develop local school district wellness policies as required by a new federal regulation. More than a decade later, the Institute is still a collaboration of the two departments and continues to offer sessions on wellness policies. To support the attendance of educators from rural parts of Alaska (where travel costs often hinder the ability to attend), the Institute offers travel scholarships through a competitive application process. Over the years, the Institute has grown in both attendance and scope. 

“Since the beginning of the Institute, the underlying core message has always been that healthier students do better academically. Healthier students are better learners, and when children spend most of their waking hours at school, their health and well-being is a very important component of their education,” said Wendy Hamilton, School Health Program Manager.

Ty Oehrtman, vice president of the American School Health Association board of directors, will be presenting at this year’s Institute on the healthy schools model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC). Physical activity and healthy nutrition are two important components of the WSCC model and several breakout presentations address those topics: Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids, The Importance of Physical Activity in Our Schools, Get Some STEAM Out of Recess, and New Initiatives in Child Nutrition.

A yearly Institute favorite, School Health Success Stories, includes a panel of professionals sharing inspiring examples of how school health is succeeding around the state. Anyone can submit a School Health Success Story nomination form for themselves or someone else. Professionals selected to present their success stories are awarded a travel scholarship to support their attendance at the SHWI.

Conference attendees include teachers, school nurses, school administrators, community health and education professionals, school counselors and anyone working with school or student health.  Contact Wendy Hamilton, School Health Program Manager, at wendy.hamilton@alaska.gov or 465-2768 for more information.

  
8/3/2017 9:44 AM

AKWellnessGuide_YoungChildren_thumb.png

About 1 out of 3 Alaska children is overweight or obese. It’s important to prevent unhealthy weight gain at a young age. Along with families, child care and early education providers can play a big role in helping Alaska’s youngest children grow up at a healthy weight.

Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program has published a new guide for these providers to help children grow up healthy, active, and ready to learn. The Wellness Guidelines for Alaska’s Young Children: A Toolkit for Child Care Providers and Families are designed to help providers and families develop environments that support and encourage healthy eating, active play, and reduced screen and media time to help young children grow up at a healthy weight and develop healthy habits for life.
 
“It’s important for child care staff, families and other caregivers to be on the same page for young children’s health,” said Diane Peck, a registered dietitian and Early Care and Education Obesity Prevention Specialist for Alaska. “The Wellness Guidelines provide tips for parents to use at home, as well as ideas for child care newsletters and events that can help inform and engage parents. Families can join child care providers in planning programs and activities to prevent childhood obesity and encourage healthy living.”
 
The Wellness Guidelines provide quick and easy information on a variety of topics for obesity prevention in child care facilities. Each topic contains practical tips and ideas for healthy activities in child care facilities or day care homes. These ideas include ways to keep kids active when it’s too cold or wet outside, the healthiest beverages to serve to young children, and ways to support breastfeeding mothers. The Wellness Guidelines contain resources on healthy activities, policies, kids’ books, and more.
 
Alaska’s new Guidelines are based on the national Caring for Our Children Health and Safety Standards that can help prevent childhood obesity. These health and safety standards are the best practices, policies, and procedures for nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding, and screen and media time that should be followed in today’s child care settings. The Caring for Our Children standards meet or exceed the Alaska Licensing Statutes and Regulations (7 AAC 57) and the Municipality of Anchorage Code (Chapter 16.55).
 
Alaska’s new publication includes a section on traditional foods. Serving traditional foods recognizes the cultural and ethnic preferences of children and broadens all children’s experiences with food. Many foods that grow wild in Alaska are part of a traditional Alaska Native diet. Foods such as wild game meats, fish, seafood, plants, and berries are very nutritious and can be served in child care settings when proper food safety guidelines are followed. Use of these foods can address the cultural and ethnic preferences of many children, encourage community and family engagement, and reduce dependency on store-bought foods.
 
The Wellness Guidelines for Alaska’s Young Children were developed by the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program with input from the Alaska Alliance for Healthy Kids – Early Care and Education Work Group. This work group brings together people interested in addressing childhood obesity in the child care and early education settings. The group consists of Head Start and individual child care providers, as well as organizations that provide licensing, training, and support for child care centers, such as thread, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Alaska Child Care Program Office, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC). The group hosts a listserv to provide up-to-date, Alaska-specific information on childhood obesity prevention issues for child care providers. You can click here to join the listserv.
 
You can learn more about healthy eating and active play in child care facilities by clicking here. If you have a question about childhood obesity prevention, contact Peck at diane.peck@alaska.gov or (907) 269-8447.

 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-07</hide>July 2017 ‎(2)
  
7/24/2017 11:12 AM

Adrianne and Port Heiden.jpgThere are large farms that feed people all across the country, and then there are little farms that feed a community of families who all know each other.

That second kind of farm is what you’ll find in the Native Village of Port Heiden, a small community hundreds of miles southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula. This community-run farm raises animals and grows vegetables to help address scarce food sources in the wild and high food prices in the store, as well as the need to help a remote area build a more reliable storage of food in the case of emergencies, said Adrianne Christensen, the village’s director of business development.

Christensen calls the Aleut and Yup’ik community where she was born and raised a “meeting place in between villages.” It once had an Army base and thousands of residents, but now the population has fallen to just over 100 people. Though far from the rest of Alaska’s population, these residents remain close to each other and committed to their home, Christensen said. They’ve moved inland to try to escape the erosion along the coastline. They’ve relied on small airplanes to fly in everything they need and wait weeks to months for packages to arrive.

“So shipping fresh things is basically impossible,” Christensen said.

To feed their families, they rely on subsistence foods like berries and fish and one store with limited — and expensive — food options, she said. Christensen, a mother of two young boys, visited the store recently and the available produce consisted of about 10 pounds of potatoes and another 10 pounds of onions. There was nothing green or leafy on the shelves.

“A gallon of milk costs over $20,” she said.

Then there’s also the decline in traditional food options. The caribou population around Port Heiden had dwindled to the point that the residents were no longer allowed to hunt them.

“That’s what inspired us to start the reindeer farm,” Christensen said. Reindeer, she said, are domesticated caribou.

Christensen said Port Heiden residents spend entire summers hunting and gathering food for their winters, including meat from the reindeer, salmon, moose, ptarmigan, wild greens, and berries. With options becoming scarcer in the wild, residents came together and created the Meshik Farm, which stems from the original village name for Port Heiden. The village is located at the mouth of the Meshik River.

In 2015, the residents flew in 30 reindeer from the Nome area, Christensen said. Over time, they added other animals, including rabbits and chickens for their meat and eggs. They built a barn and an electric fence to keep the bears out. They used recycled items when they could, constructing a chicken house out of a reclaimed fuel drum.

“We lost a bunch of chickens to a fox this morning,” Christensen said in the middle of July, leaving their current chicken count at 15.

Like the caribou population, the rabbit population in the wild had been declining. Port Heiden residents now raise them on the farm for their meat. They also raise four pigs, one of which is pregnant. Pigs are not native to the area, but Port Heiden residents raise them because “we like bacon,” Christensen said. The residents also harvest vegetables and herbs, including squash, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, kale, basil and dill.

Christensen said the Meshik Farm has two paid farmers, but everyone gets involved in some way. The farm is a community effort. The elders watch the animals and make sure they aren’t in danger. Adults build and clean pens, collect eggs, and care for the animals when they are sick. The children help feed and water, even slaughter, the animals. The tribe in Port Heiden sells the meat and produce to community members, and then the profit goes back into managing the farm, Christensen said. The farm website lists a dozen eggs at $12, a chicken for $25, and a rabbit for $20.

 “We had people here who didn’t realize an egg tastes good because they had never eaten a fresh egg,” Christensen said.

At this point, the farm isn’t raising enough money to make it profitable, but it has brought positive changes for the community’s lifestyle. Christensen said the farming program has helped residents stop abusing drugs and kept them sober. It has helped children stay active, chasing reindeer and catching chickens. It’s inspired families to start their own personal gardens and raise animals.

“The farm really brings people together, especially when animals arrive,” Christensen said. “People are really proud of our community and what we’re doing.”

 

The photograph is of Adrianne Christensen, Port Heiden's director of business development, and her son. The image is courtesy of Christensen.

  
7/10/2017 9:57 AM

AK Grown.JPGWant your children to expand their tastes for vegetables beyond peas, carrots, and broccoli? A trip to a local farmers market can help. And if the idea of looking at stacks of potatoes and zucchini doesn’t grab your child’s attention, maybe they would be more interested in duck eggs, raw honey still in the comb, or even yak meat.

Yes, that’s right. There is a yak farm in Willow, and Duane Clark sells the meat at his booth at the Thankful Thursdays market at the Mall at Sears in Anchorage (indoors, Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., all year); Town Square Park in Downtown Anchorage (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., summer); and the Peters Creek Farmers Market (American Legion Post 33, Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., June-December).

Clark said it’s fun to show a customer (especially a child) a photo of a yak and explain how it is different from a cow, and what the meat is like.

“Not everyone is going to get a chance to see a yak in real life,” Clark said. “When I explain to them that yak meat is like really good beef, a lot of times they want to try it.”

Even with the more typical produce, like cucumbers or tomatoes, meeting the people who grew and harvested the vegetable can make it much more appealing to a child.

“If they can see the produce connected to someone who enjoys being there, with a happy face, and can tell the story of when (the produce) was planted, and how it grew, that can make a difference,” Clark said. “Kids can see some of the same things in any grocery store, but there, all the guy did was take them out of the box.”

Carla McConnell is the organizational volunteer for the Muldoon Farmers Market in East Anchorage (Begich Middle School, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., late June to late September). She agreed that shopping in a farmers market is much more exciting for a child.

“There are music and activities, and it’s much more of an event than a grocery store,” McConnell said. “They can get interaction with the farmers themselves in most cases, and can ask them: ‘What is it? What does it taste like? How does it grow?’”

McConnell encourages families to ask for samples to help encourage kids to try new or different options.

“The taste of fresh, locally grown produce is completely different, a totally different taste on the palate,” she said.

Robbi Mixon is the director of the Homer Farmers Market (Ocean Drive, Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., late May to late September). Mixon said her market often hosts a chef to cook simple recipes in front of the market’s attendees.

“They can see that anyone can make (the featured recipes) with relative ease, and kids can help,” she said. “We also try to have kid helpers working with the chefs, so other kids can see how they can help at home.”

Getting a chance to touch and feel fruits and veggies, and being involved in the preparation process — such as washing, trimming, and chopping — can get a child interested in tasting them, said Lindsay Meyers from Meyers Farm in Bethel (Tundra Ridge, Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

“If you make it as much of a kinesthetic experience as possible, it makes kids want to put the fruits or veggies in their mouths,” Meyers said.

Pea pods are a great starting place.

“It’s fun to open them and taste what’s inside,” said Meyers.

To find farmers markets near you, visit http://buyalaskagrown.com/buy/farmermarkets.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-06</hide>June 2017 ‎(2)
  
6/27/2017 8:14 AM

IMG_6611.JPGA downtown Anchorage church is converting its front lawn into a huge vegetable and herb garden.

A few blocks away at a municipal park, residents and city employees have planted clusters of fruit trees and berry bushes.

These are just two examples of a new trend in urban gardens: edible landscaping. The idea is to create an attractive public space that also provides free food to the community.

“We have planted apple trees, raspberry and currant bushes, blueberries, strawberries, and rhubarb,” said Catherine Kemp, an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for the Municipality of Anchorage.

The Fairview Community Council and the Anchorage Community Land Trust received funding from the Cities of Service, as well as donated fruit trees from the State of Alaska Division of Forestry, to create this edible landscaping at Fairview Park.

“We will have signs identifying the plants, explaining how they are traditionally used, and encouraging people to pick them,” said Kemp.

Kemp said food security is a priority for Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, and he hopes many in the area will benefit from the edible additions. 

“Both local residents and any homeless people in the area will be encouraged to pick and eat the fruit growing here,” said Kemp.

Kemp also has plans to use the garden to teach the children at Fairview Elementary School about food issues.

“I am going to do some education sessions about the importance of growing our own food and how the food system works,” she said.

Just a few blocks away, volunteers from Central Lutheran Church are planting a large vegetable and herb garden in front of their building. 

“We hope to have raised vegetable garden beds built this summer,” said Barbara Baker, a church member who is working on the garden project.

When the garden is ready for harvest, Baker said its bounty will be open to church members, residents of a nearby transitional housing shelter, and children attending the closest Camp Fire Alaska Before and After School Program.

Photograph courtesy of Laura Vachula with the Anchorage Park Foundation

  
6/7/2017 7:49 AM

HealthyFutures_SummerActivityLog.pngFor the second year in a row, the Healthy Futures Challenge will continue in the summer.

Many parents across Alaska know about the free physical activity challenge that is offered twice during each school year — once in the fall and again in the spring. The spring challenge ended in more than 160 elementary schools in April, but the Summer Healthy Futures Challenge will kick off again in June to help Alaska kids get closer to 60 minutes of daily physical activity during the summer.

“The Summer Challenge encourages kids to continue building the habit of daily physical activity through the summer months, keeping them engaged in healthy activities,” said Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures coordinator.
 
Healthy Futures is partnering with Camp Fire Alaska and Denali Family Services to run the summer physical activity challenge in several Anchorage locations and almost 30 rural communities that participate in Denali Family Services camps, Camp Fire’s Rural Camp program, and Camp Fire’s school-age  program in Anchorage.
 
The school-year Healthy Futures Challenge and the Summer Challenge run in slightly different ways. To successfully complete the school-year challenge, children in grades K-6 fill out a physical activity log for an entire month. To complete the Summer Challenge, children need to fill out an activity log for a two-week period of time. During those two weeks, participating children need to be active for 60 minutes a day for at least 10 days, Loran said.
 
There will be four, two-week Summer Challenge periods in June and July, Loran said. Children who complete the Summer Challenge will receive a prize. The prize for a first completed log is a Healthy Futures yo-yo that lights up when it’s used.
 
To learn more about the Summer Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Healthy Futures at alyse@healthyfuturesak.org.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-05</hide>May 2017 ‎(3)
  
5/23/2017 8:45 AM

_MG_3076.jpgPlay Every Day has been broadcasting a short TV message about Carolyn and Shane Iverson’s family in Bethel, and how they have fun making physical activity a part of their daily life.

Carolyn Iverson says the local children were excited to see the message about their community along the Kuskokwim River, and the importance of being active every day.

“I always ask them: Did it make you want to play?” she says. “And they all say, ‘Yes!’”

Last year, Play Every Day filmed this public service announcement (PSA) with the Iverson family. This year, the campaign is broadcasting the PSA again, but the Iverson family has some big news. The family of five is now a family of six. Their little boy named Tyson was born on Feb. 11.

The PSA about the Iversons was created in partnership between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Both organizations are working together again this spring and summer to share the physical activity message with Alaska families throughout the state.

The PSA can only share 30 seconds of the Iverson family’s story. Here are a few more details to see how Carolyn and Shane — and many other adults in Bethel — are helping children get out and play every day.
Carolyn is Yup’ik, grew up in Akiak until age 5, and has lived in Bethel for years. That’s where she met her husband, Shane. They have three boys and a girl — all under the age of 8. Carolyn is a social worker with the Lower Kuskokwim School District and Shane is the general manager for KYUK.

The Iversons are busy, but they work hard to make sure their whole family is active every day. They limit TV time and don’t have video games. They make physical activity a daily priority by finding ways to weave activity into their family’s day.
 
“Sometimes people think physical activity needs to be separate from their daily lives,” Carolyn says. “When you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle, that’s when it will be easiest to maintain.”
 
Activity is a part of the kids’ school day. The older boys do Native dance at the Yup’ik Immersion School. After school, the Iverson children play basketball, wrestle, do judo, or dance. When school’s out for the summer, they play soccer, pick berries or take trips to the sand pits to run around and play. They often take a boat to their fish camp so they can fish together on the river.
 
The Iverson family has found a way to be active and help the community be active at the same time. In the summer, Shane coaches soccer while his children play the game. During the school year, Carolyn coaches girls basketball and Shane assists. Carolyn says one of Bethel’s strengths is its sense of community.
 
“There a lot of people — adults — who put time and energy into giving kids multiple different kinds of opportunities throughout the year,” she says.
 
Carolyn says she gives her time to help young kids because she wants them to think about the importance of being physically active. She wants to inspire them to maintain that level of activity throughout adulthood. She also wants to help them feel better about who they are, and start thinking about their goals for the future.
 
“We are trying to raise our kids to choose to be active and engage in things that make them feel good,” Carolyn says.
 
Carolyn says she maintained her own active lifestyle while pregnant with Tyson. She helped her sister coach cross country running during the early part of her pregnancy and coached the young girls basketball team until she had her baby. 
 
This is how the Iversons are helping children in their community be physically active. What can you do in yours?
  
5/8/2017 8:11 AM

​Do you know how children get most of their added sugar each day?Group-PPT.jpg

They drink it.

Sugary drinks are the No.1 source of added sugar in our daily diets. And most of these drinks come loaded with calories with little — if any — nutritional value.

These sugary drinks are more than just soda. Some of the more popular sweetened drinks in Alaska cupboards include the powdered mixes and fruit-flavored beverages. Alaska parents are often surprised to hear that sports drinks and vitamin drinks — drinks marketed to appear like they are healthier options — are really just loaded with sugar. There can be eight teaspoons of sugar in a 20-ounce vitamin drink, and nine teaspoons of sugar in a similar-sized sports drink.

Play Every Day is taking its message to television, websites, and the walls of schools and health clinics across Alaska to show how these sugary drinks add up to serious health problems for children and adults. Its public service announcement opens with this line: “It’s just one soda with dinner. What’s the harm?”

Sugary drinks are linked with many harms that can start in childhood and lead to a lifetime of serious health risks. Sugary drinks can lead to unhealthy weight gain. One out of three Alaska children is overweight or obese. They can lead to type 2 diabetes — a serious health condition that is being increasingly diagnosed among children even though it used to be considered a disease of adults only. Sugary drinks can lead to cavities, and can increase the risk of heart disease.

Play Every Day’s 30-second video message flashes back to the sugary drinks a child consumes at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. At the same time, a split screen shows the sugar adding up in a glass. By the end, the child consumes 38 teaspoons of sugar — almost a cup — just from sugary drinks that day. The take-home message is to skip all those sugary drinks and choose water or low-fat milk for the best health.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans has set limits on the amount of added sugar to consume each day for the best health. The guidelines recommend limiting our added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories we eat and drink each day. Added sugars are sugars, syrups and other sweeteners that are added to foods or drinks when they are processed or prepared. Sugary drinks — like sodas and sports drinks — are loaded with added sugars. You can read more to learn how you can help your family meet these recommended limits for daily added sugar.

  
5/1/2017 11:41 AM

DSC_3733.jpg

Nick Hanson, the American Ninja Warrior from Unalakleet, has designed an obstacle course and will be challenging students to try it at eight Mat-Su Borough schools on May 2- 4, 2017. One obstacle he will be demonstrating is a 14 1/2-foot curved wall — the same height wall that he climbs during the national TV American Ninja Warrior competition that features creative obstacles.

Hanson is visiting local schools to show young children that daily physical activity is healthy and fun. Hanson also will focus on other choices he makes to stay healthy, including not drinking soda, smoking tobacco or abusing drugs.

The last soda Hanson drank was in 2003, when he was a high school athlete. He used to drink multiple cans of soda a day, but when he gave it up, he started to feel better.
 
“I actually started running faster,” he said. “I started performing better.”
 
For the past two years, Hanson has been a contestant on American Ninja Warrior and competes as the “Eskimo Ninja.” Hanson, a world record holder in the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, has been invited back to compete and will be on the show airing June 12, 2017. When he’s home, Hanson practices every day on the Ninja course he built using driftwood on the beach of Unalakleet.
 
At his first Mat-Su school visit May 2, Hanson will be joined by the Play Every Day campaign. Last year, Play Every Day partnered with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to film a 30-second public service announcement that shows Hanson helping Unalakleet children and families get physically active in many different ways. He has coached children in several sports, including volleyball and Native Youth Olympics. He organizes a free running club for people of all ages in the summer. And when the kids play hide-and-go-seek and other games, Hanson joins in the fun. Play Every Day and ANTHC are broadcasting Hanson’s physical activity message to Alaska families on TV and online this spring and summer. 
 
Play Every Day will join Hanson Tuesday morning, May 2, 2017, at Meadow Lakes Elementary School, 1741 N. Pittman Road in Wasilla. From 10 to 10:30 a.m., Play Every Day staff and Hanson will talk during a school assembly about the importance of getting 60 minutes of daily physical activity and reducing your consumption of sugary drinks for the best health. Play Every Day’s staff will give an interactive demonstration that shows the surprising amount of sugar hiding in sugary drinks — such as powdered drinks, sports drinks and soda — and how that sugar adds up when you choose a sugary drink at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Hanson will demonstrate several obstacles from the American Ninja Warrior course. From 10:30 to 11 a.m., Hanson will help Meadow Lakes students try some obstacles.
collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-04</hide>April 2017 ‎(2)
  
4/17/2017 11:40 AM

Snack Shack 2.PNGLooking to pick up a skinny caramel latte at the Upbeat Cafe at Colony High School? It’s going to come with calorie-free flavoring.

Want to grab a quick slice of pizza from the Snack Shack run by the high school’s activities program?  Now it’s got a tasty whole wheat crust. You might also notice that the portion size is a bit smaller — 10 slices per pie this year compared to the 8 slices they sold before. 

These menu changes are a part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District implementation of the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards. These national standards are issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Starting in the 2014-15 school year, the Smart Snacks nutrition standards require that “competitive foods” — snacks and beverages sold in vending machines, school stores, snack carts, á la carte lines and fundraising efforts during the school day — are nutritious and promote health.

While serving healthy foods to students during the school day makes sense, it can be challenging to put these standards into action. Many of these stores are run by volunteer clubs and organizations, rather than a school nutrition specialist. Detailed nutrition standards can look overwhelming to volunteers if they don’t get the necessary support.

Rather than trying to navigate the new standards, some districts chose to unplug vending machines and shutter school stores during the school day, only opening for evening sporting events (foods sold more than a half an hour after the school day ends are not required to meet the Smart Snacks nutrition standards). Unfortunately, the clubs and groups running the stores lose that source of revenue when there are many healthy choices they could be selling.

The Mat-Su Borough School District has found a way to meet those standards, continue offering foods and drinks during the school day, and bring in revenue. Rachel Kroon, member of the district’s wellness team, worked with school stores, cafés and coffee shops throughout the district to meet nutrition standards.
 
“We made individual school site visits to check their current menus and let them sample some Smart Snack-compliant items,” she said. "We delivered a folder with all the Smart Snack Guidelines and gave them a list of snack items they could buy from local stores and Amazon. Then we followed up with site-specific recommendations to the clubs and groups running the stores.”
 

Thinking about making a change at your school?  Here are some tips for a Smart Snacks makeover:

• Share the Guide to Smart Snacks in Schools with anyone who manages a school store or snack bar, coordinates food-based fundraisers during the school day, or sells food on campus outside of the School Breakfast and Lunch Program.
• Check current snacks and beverage inventories using the Alliance for a Healthier Generation Product Calculator. Use the Beverage Inventory and Food Inventory worksheets to help you document and stay organized.
• Browse for compliant products using the Smart Food Planner or work with your school food service to order Smart Snacks-compliant foods through their vendors.
• Consider working with your school food service program to prepare Smart Snacks-compliant foods like muffins, pizzas, sandwiches, or salads for sale in a school store.
• Involve students in taste-testing new options.
• Use Smarter Lunchroom strategies, such as placing healthier items at the front of the counter; using signs withfun, descriptive names to make them visible and attractive; and pricing healthier items at a lower cost than less healthy items.
• Make sure the Smart Snacks standards are included in your district’s required school wellness policy.

One of the best ways to help young Alaskans grow up at a healthy weight is to pass and implement a strong school wellness policy. Evidence of the importance of a strong school wellness policy (also known as a student nutrition and physical activity policy) is so clear that the federal government requires that every school district receiving funds for school breakfast or lunch have a policy. Alaska school surveys indicate a clear relationship between implementing Smart Snacks nutrition standards and the declining availability of candy and salty snacks in Alaska schools.
 
Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program, in concert with the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development Child Nutrition Program, has developed a Gold Standard School Wellness policy that meets Smart Snacks and all other state and federal requirements.
 
For more information about Smart Snacks in School or school wellness policies, contact Lauren Kelsey, Obesity Prevention School Partnership Coordinator, at lauren.kelsey@alaska.gov.
 
Photograph courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough School District

 
  
4/10/2017 9:06 AM

Erica and Rachel Service High Partners Club, Erica on left.jpegEach year, the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education awards its Inclusive Practice Award to one or more educators who work to ensure students experiencing disabilities have the opportunity to be included in school activities. Nominations for the award are made by parents, students and educators to recognize the outstanding efforts of those around the state who provide positive learning environments for students experiencing disabilities and their peers.

The 2017 winner of the Inclusive Practice Award is the Service High School Partners Club in Anchorage. The Service High School Partners Club, created in 2001, is made up of 30 students with intellectual disabilities, eight staff members, 72 peer teachers, and 100 partners who work together on educational goals, life skills activities, and community inclusion. Led by life skills and special education teacher Adam Ahonen, the Partners Club works to develop activities that both promote awareness and inclusion of all students.

The Partners Club has a coffee shop and a Special Olympics group, and also works with multiple sports teams. Observers and participants say the Partners Club has encouraged a school culture at Service High where students with disabilities are actively included in school assemblies, drama productions, choir, prom and dances, sporting events, and after school activities.

Ahonen says the club also participates in community events, such as entering the Fur Rondy snow sculpting competition. This spring, he is excited about the chance for Partners Club members to participate in track and field.

“Alaska is the first state to have a unified sporting event, involving both special education and regular curriculum students, that is recognized and sanctioned by the state’s school activities organization,” he said. “That’s exciting. The most important part of this for me is seeing that Partners Club is a catalyst for social inclusion and enhancing the overall community in our schools.”

Rachel Robinson, a Partners Club member with Down syndrome, said that she loves the activities she gets to take part in, including floor hockey, bowling, skiing, basketball and cheerleading.

“I was the captain for cheerleading for hockey,” she said.

Service High School also offers a related elective class in which students in the general education population can sign up to act as peer teachers for students experiencing disabilities in the life skills program.

Erica Christopherson is one of those peer teachers. She accompanies Rachel and her classmates experiencing disabilities while they carry out basic jobs around school — washing dishes in the cafeteria or shredding papers in the office — and guides them while they complete their daily journal entries.

Although Christopherson works with the Partners Club for school credit, she also spends a lot of her own time there, simply because she enjoys it.

“Mr. A’s room is always open and welcoming,” she said. “I’m in here almost every day at lunch, just hanging out with the students and the other peer teachers. It’s a lot of fun.”

In 2015, Play Every Day created a video public service announcement focused on the importance of daily physical activity for children of all abilities. Congratulations to the Partners Club and other nominees for the 2017 Inclusive Practice Award for putting that goal into action.

Below is the complete list of nominees for the Governor’s Council on Disabilities & Special Education 2017 Inclusive Practice Award. Congratulations to all nominees for their important work educating and supporting Alaska children of all abilities.

• Monique Christiansen: Intensive Needs Program, Palmer Junior Middle School, Palmer
• Deb Evensen: FASD educator and consultant, Homer
• Gail Greenhalagh: Alaska Transition Outcomes Project (ATOP) Coordinator,   SERRC, Juneau
• Jennifer Hilder and Pam Penrose: Teachers and mentors, Craig Elementary and Craig Middle School, Craig
• Hope School Team: Patricia Truesdell, Sandra Barron, Diane Olthuis, Eugene, Moseley, and Sara Fortin, Hope
• Pauline Johnson: Paraprofessional, Angoon Elementary, Angoon
• Lisa Kelzenberg: Adaptive Physical Education Teacher, Eagle River High School, Eagle River
• Robyn Meyer: Pre-school teacher, Northwood ABC Elementary, Anchorage
• Nikolaevsk School Instructional Team: Robanne Stading, Jared Copeland, Kelli Hickman, Steve Klaich, Heather Pancratz, Krista Parrett, Michael Sellers, and Jeri Trail, Nikolaevsk
• Paul Banks Elementary Special Education Department: Ray Archuleta, Stephanie Fain, Melissa Gersdorf, Mindy Hunter, Monica Glenn, Donna Sander, Amy Sundheim, Melissa Arno, Vicki Berney, Daniel Bunker, Bobby Copeland-McKinney, Luke Eckert, Anna Germundson, Noreen O’Brien-Dugan, Jennifer Poss, Katy Rice, and Kristi Wickstrom, Homer
• Katherine Pittman: Special Education teacher, Glacier Valley Elementary, Juneau
• Amanda Rugg: Structured Learning Classroom teacher, Bowman Elementary, Anchorage
• Sally Stockhausen: Teacher and team leader, Kayhi High School, Ketchikan
• Tri-Valley School Team: JoHanna Sesito, Bonny Hamm and Angelica Hayes, Ivana Haverlikova, Natile Brandt, Erinn Martin, Jennifer Hancock, Sarah Walker, Jody Stamps and Danielle Talerico, Healy
• Christine Zelinsky: Department Chair and Brandy Jones, Steven Odom, Tracie Ashman, and Anne Paley, Dimond High School, Anchorage

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-03</hide>March 2017 ‎(2)
  
3/29/2017 3:53 PM

2016_YRBS_PSAPoster_Final.jpg

MARCH 29, 2017

For the best health, youth need 60 minutes of physical activity every day, but only a fraction of youth meet that target. For example, in 2015, only one in five Alaska high school students got 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

For good health, even one sugary drink a day is too much, but almost half of Alaska youth say they drank at least one sugary drink — such as a soda or sports drink — every single day.

A lack of daily activity and daily consumption of sugary drinks can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Today, too many Alaska high school students are overweight or obese.

We know all of this about Alaska teens because, like most other states, Alaska participates in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The YRBS is a paper and pencil survey of Alaska students in public traditional and alternative high schools. Alternative schools teach students who face higher risks and benefit from a non-traditional school setting. The voluntary, anonymous survey is a joint project between the Alaska Departments of Health and Social Services and Education and Early Development, with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school districts, and staff.

The YRBS collects information about Alaska teens, including their behaviors that affect health. Students across the state complete the YRBS in odd-numbered years, with the 2017 YRBS taking place right now in high schools from Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to Ketchikan. About 7,000 high school students from about 30 school districts participate in the survey every other year.

“Many different organizations rely on the YRBS, including state programs, school districts, tribal organizations, and statewide and community coalitions,” said Kate Oliver, statewide coordinator for the Alaska YRBS Program. “These organizations use YRBS results for needs assessments, to design and evaluate programs, and to apply for grant funding that supports projects to improve the health and wellness of Alaska youth.”

The statewide YRBS results focus on the health and risk behaviors of both traditional and alternative high school students in Alaska. In addition, many school districts choose to conduct their own YRBS to give them information about their districts’ students. Alaska results can be compared with national YRBS data to better understand how Alaska’s doing, and historical data from the YRBS can be used to assess the risk behaviors of Alaska teens over time.

In 2015, YRBS results revealed important information about the physical activity level, time spent in front of computers and televisions, sugary drink consumption, and body weights of Alaska teens.

Physical Activity
In 2015, 21% of Alaska traditional high school students got the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity every day, and even fewer (16%) Alaska alternative high school students met this mark. Among both groups, a higher percentage of males than females were physically active every day. Compared to U.S. traditional high school students, fewer Alaska students met the 60-minutes-a-day target. There hasn’t been a significant change in daily physical activity in over five years.
 
Screen Time
In 2015, one in three Alaska teens (traditional and alternative high school students) spent three or more hours playing video and computer games or using a computer for something other than school work on an average school day. Compared to the United States, fewer Alaska teens spend as much time in front of a screen, but Alaska is still seeing a concerning trend. Since 2007, the percentage of traditional high school students using these devices for three hours or more every day has increased significantly.
 
Sugary Drink Consumption
Forty-six percent of traditional high school students consumed at least one sugary drink, such as a soda or sports drink, every day in 2015. Over half (55%) of Alaska alternative high school students consumed at least one sugary drink each day. 
 
Overweight and Obesity
In 2015, 17% of traditional high school students were overweight and 14% were obese, which was similar to national YRBS results. However, a significantly higher percentage of Alaska alternative high school students were obese (23%), as compared to traditional high school students.
 
Are you interested in the results of the 2017 Alaska YRBS? Watch for a preliminary report in the winter of 2017. A full 2017 YRBS report will be published in 2018. If you’d like to learn more about the Alaska YRBS, visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/yrbs/yrbs.aspx.
  
3/13/2017 9:04 AM

140605 KTVA Studio-9961 web.jpgMaking small shifts in our food choices can add up over time. This year's theme for National Nutrition Month® in March inspires us to start with small changes in our eating habits – one forkful at a time. So whether you are planning meals to prepare at home or making selections when eating out, Put Your Best Fork Forward to help find your healthy eating style.

“Healthy eating should be enjoyable and ‘doable’ for your entire life”, says Diane Peck, registered dietitian nutritionist with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Focus on eating healthy foods that you like and being active to help stay healthy and manage your weight.”

Think nutrient-rich, rather than "good" or "bad" foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, and lower in calories. Here are a few tips for making smart food choices:

• Choose healthy drinks. Drink water or low-fat milk, instead of sugary drinks. For variety, add fresh or frozen fruit to a glass or pitcher of cold water, try unsweetened hot or cold caffeine-free tea, or add a splash of 100% fruit juice to club soda or seltzer water.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables. All forms of fruits and vegetables provide healthful benefits – fresh, frozen, canned and dried. Traditional foods –​ such as berries, sourdock, and beach greens – are especially high in nutrients.

• Focus on variety. Choose a variety of healthful foods in all food groups to help reduce the risk of preventable, lifestyle-related chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables; whole grains, such as oats and 100% whole wheat bread; healthy proteins, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.

• Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for strong bones and may contribute to overall good health. Alaskans should select foods that are high in vitamin D, such as Alaska salmon and vitamin D fortified non- or low-fat milk, and should talk with their health care providers about vitamin D and the risks and benefits of supplementation.

• Play every day. Choose activities that you enjoy and want to do each day. Remember, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Find fun activities that get the whole family moving, like sledding or going for a walk.

ChooseMyPlate.gov has resources to help you achieve your healthy eating goals this month, and all year long.

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing good eating and physical activity habits. Play games, download tip sheets, view recipe videos and more at http://sm.eatright.org/NNMinfo.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-02</hide>February 2017 ‎(3)
  
2/28/2017 9:16 AM

Lauren daughter for ECE toys blog.JPGYoung children across Alaska are learning how to become healthy eaters and active kids by doing what comes naturally to them — looking at books and playing with toys.

Child care providers play an important role in helping to develop healthy eating and physical activity habits in young children. The Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program worked with the national Let's Move initiative and Thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, to provide training and resources to child care centers and day care homes to support healthy eating and physical activity habits. These habits include providing water to thirsty children, rather than sugary drinks, and increasing time spent in active play.

“Our goal is to help the youngest Alaskans grow up at a healthy weight,” said Diane Peck with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Child care programs can provide a healthy environment for children to eat, play, grow, and develop healthy habits for life.”

To help make these changes fun for kids, the program provides resources that encourage healthy eating and active play, such as age-appropriate physical activity equipment, fruit and vegetable food models, and children’s books highlighting healthy foods and kids being active.

Kelley Polasky, with Friendly Days Childcare in Juneau, recently completed the program.

“I've really enjoyed the toys and resources provided through the Let's Move initiative. The resources gave us great ideas for organized and free play,” she said. “The kids especially love the wrist ribbons! They are played with every day. From free dance to organized movements, they are a hit! We also have a toy kitchen, and the healthy toy foods allow the children to cook and pretend serving foods that are good for them. ”

  
2/13/2017 8:46 AM
Group-PPT.jpgAsk Alaska parents why sugary drinks are harmful, and almost all of them will tell you these drinks can cause cavities.
 
They’ll tell you these sugary drinks are linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

But fewer Alaska parents know that sugary drinks are also linked with heart disease.

During this Valentine’s week — when all of the focus is on the heart — here are a few things to know about how limiting sugary drinks may keep your heart healthy.

Sugary drinks include more than just sodas. They include sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, sports and energy drinks, sweetened powdered mixes, vitamin-enhanced water beverages, and tea and coffee drinks with added syrups and sugars. These drinks can contain a high amount of added sugar. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda or a sweetened fruit-flavored drink can have 16 teaspoons of added sugar. A tall glass of a sweetened powdered drink mix can have 11 teaspoons of added sugar. A 20-ounce sports drink can have 9 teaspoons of added sugar.

Kendra Sticka, a registered dietitian and associate professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said studies show that when you increase the percentage of calories that come from added sugars, you increase your risk of dying from heart disease. This increased risk was reported in the 2014 “Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine,” and was found after adjusting for several other factors, including Body Mass Index (BMI), diet quality, and physical activity and education levels.

Another recent study published in “Circulation” showed that each sugary drink matters in terms of health. After adjusting for a number of factors (smoking, physical activity, BMI, diet quality and more), the study showed that each additional sugary drink per day increased the risk of heart disease. Sugary drink consumption was associated with a higher level of inflammation in the body, and inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease, Sticka said.

A 2016 Scientific Statement focused on children and issued by the American Heart Association (AHA) said there is strong evidence supporting a link between added sugars and increased risk for heart disease in kids.

“Far too many children consume too much added sugar, and that puts them at risk for serious health problems,” said Karol Fink, registered dietitian and manager of Alaska’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.
Children and adults are drinking too many sugary beverages, and the added sugar from these drinks is associated with an increase in unhealthy cholesterol in the blood – a risk factor for heart disease. Atherosclerosis — a condition in which fats and cholesterol can build up and harden and narrow your blood vessels — can start in childhood, the AHA Scientific Statement said. Atherosclerosis can lead to heart attacks, strokes and death.

According to the AHA Scientific Statement, sugary drinks contribute about half of the added sugar in children’s diets. They also provide little to no nutritional value. Given that, the AHA recommends that children and adolescents limit their added sugar intake every day and limit their sugary drink intake to 1 or fewer 8-ounce drinks each week. That’s fewer ounces than you’ll find in most sugary drinks sold on the shelves at grocery stores.

Cutting back on sugary drinks, in whatever way you can, will make a difference in your health.

“Any decrease is going to be a benefit,” Sticka said.

Want to reduce the number of sugary drinks you serve your children? Find ways to make water an easier choice for your family. Have cold pitchers of water ready for your children in the refrigerator. Cut up fruits, like lemons or limes, and put them in a glass of water for a refreshing drink. Give your child their own special water bottle, or straw for their glass, to make it a drink they’ll want to choose.
 
 
  
2/6/2017 9:13 AM

Nunaka OR 7.jpgThis winter, about 500 Anchorage elementary school children will get the chance to try a new way to enjoy our long, snowy winters by cross country skiing.

Throughout January and February, the Municipality of Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Department is hosting students from 10 elementary schools, mainly Title 1 schools, (see list of planned field trips below) at the Lidia Selkregg Chalet in Russian Jack Springs Park for ski field trips.

“For many of these kids, it’s the first time they are going to have the opportunity to ski,” said Margaret Timmerman, recreation coordinator for the program. “The whole idea is that we are a winter city and we want them to be aware of, and have a chance to participate in, positive healthy winter activities.”

The Outreach Ski Program began in 1995 and has been offering field trips since 2012 for local students who likely would not otherwise have a chance to try the sport. Timmerman said Parks and Recreation supplies waxless skis, boots and poles for students, as well as trip chaperones and school staff. Parks and Recreation staff and community volunteers provide ski lessons and tips to help students learn to ski.

“We are always happy to have volunteers,” said Timmerman. “And you don’t have to be an elite skier to help out. We have the full gamut of folks that can tie shoes, put on mittens and zip jackets, all the way to professional skiers. You just need to enjoy working with kids and be able to be outside for an hour and a half.”

Students from elementary schools not scheduled for field trips can try out the sport for free at the annual Ski 4 Kids event, to be held this year on Saturday, March 4, 2017, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Kincaid Park Chalet in Anchorage.

Ski 4 Kids is a partnership between Anchorage Parks and Recreation, the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, and Healthy Futures. Families can bring their own skis or use the Outreach Program equipment, and parents are welcome to ski along with their kids.

“It’s a really, really fun event, a winter festival to celebrate winter sports,” said Timmerman.

Kids up to age 14 can ski a 3K loop, timed or untimed, and there is a shorter, read-along storybook trail designed for skiers under age 5 as well. Each child who finishes the route receives a medal and a goodie bag. Nunaka OR18.jpg

“And there are a lot of other activities to try after the ski event,” said Timmerman. “We’ll have showshoeing, orienteering, a treasure hunt, an obstacle course, and more.”

Register for Ski 4 Kids at www.anchoragenordicski.com. There is no charge for the event, but donations are requested to help keep the Outreach Ski Program going.


Below is a list of the planned Outreach Ski Program field trips for February 2017:
Feb 8, 2017: Anchorage Native Charter School (volunteer help needed)
Feb 9, 2017: Chester Valley Elementary (volunteer help needed)
Feb 10, 2017: STrEaM Academy
Feb 14: Russian Jack Elementary (volunteer help needed)


For more information on the Outreach Ski Program, or to arrange a field trip for your school, contact Anchorage Parks and Recreation at (907) 343-4217.


Photographs courtesy of Anchorage Parks and Recreation

collapse Published Month : <hide>2017-01</hide>January 2017 ‎(3)
  
1/30/2017 9:43 AM

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpg​In two days, it’s a good bet that 1 out of 5 Alaska elementary school students will start a free challenge to get out and play.

It’s called the Healthy Futures Challenge, a three-month physical activity challenge that takes place each spring and each fall in kindergarten through sixth grade. Healthy Futures is the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and has been offered through a partnership with Alaska elementary schools for more than a decade. The number of participating schools and students has increased significantly in recent years. Last fall, almost 15,000 individual children successfully completed the physical activity challenge and won prizes.
 
The 2017 Spring Healthy Futures Challenge starts Wednesday, Feb. 1, in about half of Alaska’s elementary schools from Kiana to Klukwan. This spring, 193 schools in districts across the state have signed up to take part.
 
The Spring Challenge runs in February, March and April. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health.
 
Participation is free, and children win fun prizes throughout the challenge for being active. This spring, the prizes for completing a Healthy Futures log are a flashing bike light for February, a puzzle ball for March, and a yoyo for April. Participating schools that achieve at least 20 percent student participation in the Healthy Futures Challenge will be eligible to receive a $200 grant. Schools can use this money to purchase educational materials or equipment that supports student physical activity.
 
Is your school signed up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late to sign up online.
 
It’s also not too late to sign up your school for PLAAY Day. PLAAY stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. So far, 81 elementary schools across Alaska have signed up to participate in PLAAY Day on Feb. 23, 2017, the first statewide effort to get thousands of Alaska children physically active — all at the same time. At 10 a.m. that Thursday, children will gather in school gyms, classrooms, outside, or in recreation centers and join a free, live videoconferencing session filled with different physical activities meant just for kids. Go online to learn more about this initiative of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and sign up to register your school for PLAAY Day. 
  
1/23/2017 1:49 PM

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Parents know the kitchen table can be a battleground. Trying to get kids to eat, let alone eat healthy foods, can be the cause of many stressful meals. How will these food fights impact children later in their lives?

Child feeding expert Keira Oseroff, faculty member with the Ellyn Satter Institute, will be speaking at the Anchorage Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC) Annual Conference on January 25, 2017. Keira will be discussing how parents and child care providers can develop and maintain a positive feeding relationship that empowers children to eat and grow well. Ellyn Satter is the author of the “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” which is the gold standard for feeding children.

We talked with Keira to learn more about feeding children.
 
1. Who is Ellyn Satter, and what does the Ellyn Satter Institute do?

Ellyn Satter is a registered dietitian and family therapist who has dedicated her career and writings to teaching people how to eat and feed their families with health and joy. She has become an international authority on best child feeding practices. Later in her career, she established the Ellyn Satter Institute (ESI) with the goal of continuing her life’s work. ESI teaches positive, joyful, and nutritionally responsible feeding and eating by reaching out to parents, clinicians, educators, researchers and policy makers, offering guidance in both prevention and treatment strategies.

2. What is the “Division of Responsibility” when feeding children?

Satter’s feeding model, “Division of Responsibility in Feeding,” is recognized as a best practice by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Head Start, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC).
 
Satter’s Division of Responsibility says that parents have certain jobs with regard to feeding their kids, and kids have their own jobs when it comes to eating. The Division of Responsibility spells out at each stage of child development what the “boundaries” are when it comes to feeding and eating.
 
3. You say that parents have a job to feed children, and children have a job to eat the foods they’re given. Explain what you mean by parents’ feeding jobs and children’s eating jobs?
 
Parents often describe meal times as stressful and filled with power struggles. The Division of Responsibility encourages parents to take a leadership role in feeding. Parents are responsible for the what, when and where of feeding, and children determine whether and how much they eat.
 
4. Many people are confused and stressed about what they eat and what they feed their children. How can we make eating more enjoyable?
 
It’s so difficult to tune out the noise that’s all around us. Everywhere we turn, whether it be from public policy, the medical field or pop culture, we are told what to eat, what not to eat, to move more and to weigh less. The noise easily turns into preoccupation about our food, our bodies, our kids’ food and their bodies. It becomes more and more difficult to tune in and trust ourselves when it comes to eating and feeding our kids. The noise and lack of trust are barriers to getting a meal on the table, to sit down with one another and enjoy one another and the food we share. When we become clear about our goal, that is to be together and share the same food, we bring the joy back to eating. When parents feed according to a division of responsibility, mealtimes become more relaxed and enjoyable for everyone. 
 
5. How can parents feed their children to help them grow up at a healthy weight?
 
Research supports what we have seen for years. That is, when parents focus on the feeding relationship and learn to trust themselves and their children, kids do better with eating. Kids are more likely to grow up in the bodies that are right for them.
 
6. Why are you speaking to child care providers about the best ways to feed young children?
 
Being with children for so many hours a day, child care providers are in a key position to help kids develop a healthy relationship with food. They are tuned in to behavioral issues, familiar with developmental stages, and are ready to consider them in the context of feeding. Childhood obesity is a hot button topic ever present in the school environment. It’s important to equip child care providers with tools that contribute to the health and wellbeing of the kids they are charged to care for. And because they are in a unique position to connect with parents, the tools and principles can be shared for practice at home.
 
Photograph courtesy of Keira Oseroff
  
1/9/2017 11:30 AM

IMG_1596.jpg​When you walk through the lunch line at Ketchikan schools, you have two choices about what kind of milk you’ll drink.

But neither choice comes with added sugar or flavors. You can have white nonfat milk or white 1% lowfat milk. Chocolate milk isn’t served at schools in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District at breakfast, lunch or during school fundraisers, said Emily Henry, wellness coordinator for the district.

Chocolate milk is one of a number of drinks that contain added sugars. Sugar can add up when children drink sweetened beverages at breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner – and then eat sugary foods as well. There is evidence that consuming sugary drinks is linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. One year ago, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans set its first recommended limit for daily sugar intake, stating that adults and kids should limit their added sugars to less than 10 percent of the calories they consume every day. For a child, that means just one bottle of soda (16 teaspoons of sugar) or one tall glass of a powdered, sugary drink mix (11 teaspoons of sugar) is too much and exceeds that daily limit of sugar.
In 2014, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District adopted its new wellness policy that doesn’t allow chocolate or flavored milk to be sold as part of the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program. That policy holds for the elementary, middle and high schools serving 2,200 students in the district.

“Ketchikan’s choice to stop selling flavored milk at school is a great example of a district working with their food service to address parent concerns about added sugars in their children’s diets,” said Lauren Kelsey, School Partnership Coordinator with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program. “Norms can change pretty fast in a school district. Having the policy in place during the past three years means pretty soon there won’t be kids in elementary schools who remember when chocolate milk was an option.”

The Ketchikan policy promotes other areas of nutrition, including using Alaska farm and fish products when possible in school meals and snacks, providing salads and fruits to be prominently displayed in dining areas to encourage students to choose healthy foods, and stating that food rewards or incentives should not be used in classrooms to encourage student achievement or good behavior.

“All foods available in district schools during the school day shall be offered to students with consideration for promoting school health and reducing childhood obesity,” the wellness policy states.

The Ketchikan School District’s school wellness policy is up for review again this winter. Henry said the district is considering updating its policy to model the State of Alaska Gold Standard School Wellness Policy, which was revised in 2016 to align with new federal regulations and a new state law requiring almost an hour of physical activity during each school day. Ketchikan’s District Wellness Committee meets Jan. 18 to discuss revising the policy.

Ketchikan schools have also added a number of new ways to help students drink water during the school day.

A student at Houghtaling Elementary School gathered more than 100 signatures from students and staff for a petition presented to the Parent Teacher Association asking to get a water bottling filling station installed. The PTA unanimously approved the petition, and the filling station is on order, Henry said. Ketchikan’s high school has two water bottle filling stations. Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, a charter school for grades PK-6, also has two water coolers and recently won a national award that will help pay for a water bottle filling station, said Cindy Moody, health aide at Tongass. All Tongass classrooms also allow students to keep water bottles at their desks, Moody said. If the students don’t have bottles, the school puts cups next to the water coolers so the students can serve themselves when they are thirsty, she said.

“It’s cool, it’s fresh, it looks appealing,” Moody said about the water coolers. When the cups run out, the kids are quick to let staff know.
“Which they do daily,” Moody said, “because they drink a lot of water.” 

To read more about Ketchikan’s school wellness program, visit the district’s website. A copy of the district’s wellness policy also can be found on the Department of Education’s wellness policy website. 

Photograph courtesy of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-12</hide>December 2016 ‎(2)
  
12/27/2016 12:20 PM

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​Kids today live in a busy world of school, homework, sports, and activities designed to keep them busy and nurture their growing minds and bodies. But doing nothing is important, too. Well, not really nothing, but taking time to relax the mind and body, stepping away from the pressures of the world, and learning to be still and calm are also important to healthy development.

Yoga can help children learn techniques for relaxation, frustration and anger management, and handling stress and anxiety. Physically, it also helps with flexibility, strength, coordination and body awareness.

“Proper breathing is a great way to energize, learn concentration and reduce stress,” said Dietrich Johnson, a children’s yoga instructor in Anchorage

“Standing poses build posture and strength. Balancing poses develop focus, strength, balance and poise. Difficult poses build self-esteem by teaching children that they can achieve what they set out to do all on their own. And relaxation poses reduce stress and teach kids how to focus.”

Pretending to be animals is a good way of introducing basic yoga poses, said Johnson.

“Luckily, most children love to talk, and they love to move — both of which can happen in yoga,” she said. “Children will jump at the chance to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors. Your role is to step back and allow them to bark in downward dog pose, hiss in cobra, and meow in cat stretch. They can also recite the ABCs or 123s as they are holding poses.”

Many yoga studios offer classes specifically for kids, but if there are none close by, you can still get the benefits of yoga by practicing with your children at home. It doesn’t have to be formal or even planned ahead of time. With just a few simple poses and enough space to spread out arms and legs, kids and parents can both have fun while benefitting from the practice.

“The first step is to just work on taking a deep breath in, slowly through your nose, and then slowly release your breath through your mouth,” said Johnson. “While you and your child are doing this, encourage your child to try to only think about the breath coming in, warming up, and going back out. This can be a life skill to help your child relax.”

After a few minutes of breathing, try some simple poses together. There are many good books, websites and videos available that demonstrate simple kid-friendly poses (see the list below). Let it be a fun, relaxed experience, and let them lead the practice, if possible, Johnson said.

“Sometimes my kids want to do poses and try new ones,” she said. “Sometimes they like to do yoga to songs. Sometimes they want to play games like Toe-Ga where we pick up pom-poms with our toes. And sometimes, they just want to do some guided relaxation.”

As your children become more comfortable with the practice, introduce some more challenging poses, ask them to plan a series of three poses in a flow so they can see how poses can fit together, or read a yoga book together and try out the poses as they are presented.

Two or three 20-minute yoga sessions a week can help most children, even those living with special needs, become more calm and handle life’s frustrations better, said Johnson.

“I have a daughter with mild-to-moderate autism and a stepson with ADHD,” said Johnson. “Yoga has helped them with self-regulation and muscle tone, and with techniques they can use to help them calm down if they have anxiety.”

Photograph courtesy of Dietrich Johnson

 
 
 
 
 
  
12/12/2016 9:23 AM

2014 Healthy_Futures_Logo.jpgYear after year, our partner the Healthy Futures program has been going after a goal.

Could the program get more than 200 elementary schools in Alaska to sign up for its free challenge that awards prizes to children who log enough physical activity each month?

Healthy Futures got closer and closer every Challenge. In Spring 2015, 189 schools signed up. Then 192 schools registered in Fall 2015. In Spring 2016, 199 schools signed up.

But this fall, Healthy Futures finally hit — and passed — its goal. All across Alaska, 209 elementary schools signed up so that thousands of Alaska kids could be supported and motivated to log 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

To support Healthy Futures, Play Every Day encourages schools to sign up for the upcoming Spring 2017 Healthy Futures Challenge and keep the momentum going. Elementary schools can sign up for the Spring Challenge now at: http://database.healthyfuturesak.org.

With schools across the state participating in the Challenge, more than 15,000 Alaska kids in grades K-6 regularly log their physical activity on a simple form and turn it into teachers who help track their progress. Students fill out their activity log every day, and those students who complete at least 60 minutes of physical activity on 15 or more days each month win a Healthy Futures prize. Schools with high student participation also can receive small cash grants from Healthy Futures to put toward physical activity equipment and programs.

To learn more about the Healthy Futures Challenge, visit the Elementary Challenge website.

collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-11</hide>November 2016 ‎(2)
  
11/21/2016 9:54 AM

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​Elementary schools across Alaska are getting ready to cheer on thousands of Alaska kids as they jump, run, dance and play — all at the same time, all across the state.


They’ll be participating in the first-ever PLAAY Day.

PLAAY is not spelled wrong. It stands for Positive Leadership for Active Alaska Youth. It’s an effort organized by our partner, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, to help community leaders improve how they work with Alaska’s youth on physical activity, health and wellness. PLAAY Day is set for Thursday, Feb. 23. Schools and groups across Alaska will organize a half-hour session at 10 a.m. when students in elementary schools will get up out of their seats and get moving.

Children will get together in school gyms, classrooms, outside, or in recreation centers. Students from the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation will join athletes to lead the kids in an organized — and synchronized — fun session of physical activity. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and GCI will link all of these children in different communities through a free, live videoconferencing session. Communities that are not able to access that live session will receive a recorded video of the physical activities that they can use to participate in the Feb. 23 event.

Almost 50 elementary schools across Alaska have already registered to participate in the free PLAAY Day. Schools can sign up now here and will receive more information about the event as the date gets closer.

“We know the benefits of physical activity,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. “It is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve a child’s self-worth, which in turn empowers them to recognize they can make active choices for improving their health.”

Physical activity is linked to an increase in concentration and focus at school, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, and improved overall health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PLAAY Day will help Alaska kids get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity needed every day for the best health. It will help children complete the February Healthy Futures Challenge, when kids across Alaska will be logging their daily physical activity through logs distributed at elementary schools. PLAAY Day is also an activity that goes toward addressing SB 200, the new Alaska law requiring schools to provide almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.

Last year, the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame helped organize the first PLAAY Summit focused on improving youth’s health. This year, the PLAAY Day physical activity event at Alaska schools on Feb. 23 will be followed by the PLAAY Summit on Feb. 24 and 25 in Anchorage at ANTHC. The Summit will feature experts from around the state who will help teachers, parents, nurses, coaches, administrators and other leaders address many areas of youth and adolescent health, including psychological, social and emotional development. The PLAAY Summit also will focus on physical activity as a way to improve health.

Partners of the PLAAY Day and PLAAY Summit include Healthy Futures; ANTHC; the Children’s Hospital of Providence; the University of Alaska Anchorage Department of Health, Physical Education & Recreation; the Chugach School District; GCI; the Anchorage School District Department of Health and Physical Education; Play Every Day; the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services; King Career Center, and others.

To learn more about PLAAY Day or the PLAAY Summit, contact Wallace Wilson at wally@alaskasportshall.org or Harlow Robinson at harlow@alaskasportshall.org.

 
  
11/7/2016 1:09 PM
IMG_0237 (1).jpgIf it’s your birthday at Stedman Elementary School in Petersburg, your day is going to start off with a school-wide celebration.
 
The principal is going to announce your name over the intercom during morning announcements. You’re going to be invited to walk down the hallway to the main office and pick up your signed birthday certificate. Then you will pick out your own book that you get to keep in honor of your birthday.
 
What you won’t get is a cupcake in your classroom. That’s because Stedman Elementary is one Alaska school that has changed its birthday celebration policy to recognize children’s special day in a healthy way.
 
The new practice of handing out books — not treats — started when the staff at Stedman Elementary School realized that they didn’t want to have cupcakes come in to the school for every child’s birthday.
 
“We decided that we could find other ways to celebrate the birthday that would make the student feel special and recognize the student on their special day,” said Teri Toland, principal of the school that teaches about 230 children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
 
Toland said the kids love having their names announced and walking down to the office to pick up their books. The kindergarten classrooms take the celebration a step further. Every child in the classroom makes a special card for the birthday student. The card says “You are 6 years old today. If I could give you anything, it would be ________.” The children get to fill in that blank with whatever gift they’d like to give and draw a picture of it.
 
“Children who don’t have a lot of money are able to give a really extravagant gift,” said kindergarten teacher Becky Martin. “They can give a castle or a rocket ship.”
 
“It makes the giver feel good, and it makes the birthday person feel pretty darn special,” said Erin Willis, Stedman’s other kindergarten teacher.
 
The kindergartner celebrating a birthday wears a crown for the day. The teachers bind all the birthday cards together into a special book that the student decorates with a cover and then takes home as a keepsake.
 
The change in how birthday parties are celebrated at Stedman Elementary stemmed in part from changing government standards calling for healthier snacks at school, but also from school staff who wanted a healthier way to celebrate their students on their special days. Toland, who was a teacher at Stedman when the birthday policy changed, said staff talked about the problem. If they considered a classroom of 20 students, that could mean celebrating 20 different birthdays each year, and 20 different days in which students ate sugary treats at school to celebrate those birthdays.
 
“As parents, we realized that having an extra treat at school wasn’t necessary,” Toland said.
 
As teachers, they realized that 20 different days of cupcakes in the classroom was causing a disruption to many school days. Furthermore, allowing families to bring sugary treats to the classroom put parents in a difficult position, Toland said. Some parents couldn’t afford to bring in treats for the whole class.
 
“It kind of differentiates between those who have and have not, and those who can and cannot,” Toland said. The new practice of celebrating students with school-supplied books and not parent-supplied treats removed that issue for families who couldn’t afford to bring in cupcakes and ensured every student was celebrated in the exact same way. The birthday books given to Stedman students don’t cost the school, or the parents, anything. The books are purchased using the proceeds collected from the annual school book fair.
 
Toland said switching to the birthday book celebration wasn’t an easy change for everyone to make, but the staff stuck with it and over time parents stopped bringing in sugary treats for their children’s birthdays. Healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, are still allowed if parents choose to bring them for the class. Toland said parents rarely choose to do that. Toland helps ensure that all parents and staff know the birthday policy by starting each school year with a school bulletin that explains how birthdays are celebrated at Stedman Elementary.
 
“It’s been a good way to teach kids that we eat healthy snacks,” she said.
 
Petersburg School District has partnered with the Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program for the past four years to maintain and train a District Wellness Coordinator who helps the district focus on supporting student nutrition and physical activity. The district’s work has been highlighted in previous blogs on the Second Chance Breakfast program and participation in Walk to School Day.
 
 
collapse Published Month : <hide>2016-10</hide>October 2016 ‎(2)
  
10/19/2016 11:39 AM

SB200 blog.jpgA new law takes effect this week in Alaska requiring schools to provide almost one hour of daily physical activity for all students in grades kindergarten through 8.

Children benefit from physical activity, both in their overall health and their academic performance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meeting the daily recommendation of physical activity is linked to an increase in concentration and focus, improved classroom attendance and behavior, better academic performance, prevention of obesity, and improved overall health.

In 2016, the Alaska State Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 200, with the short title “Mandatory Physical Activity in Schools.” The law went into effect October 16, 2016.

The new law states the following:  “a school district shall establish guidelines for schools in the district to provide opportunities during each full school day for students in grades kindergarten through eight, for a minimum of 90 percent of the daily amount of physical activity recommended for children and adolescents in the physical activity guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…”. Full text of the law can be found at www.akleg.gov.

The CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day for children and adolescents (the same recommendation in Play Every Day messages). The new Alaska law requires 90 percent of that amount — or 54 minutes of physical activity — during each school day for grades K-8. The 54 minutes may include a combination of physical education classes, recess, and in-classroom physical activity. Since daily physical education is an important component of the educational curriculum, many schools will meet part of the requirement by offering PE. However, each district may decide their own combination of activities to meet the daily 54-minute requirement.

The Superintendent of the North Slope Borough School District, based in Barrow, asked each schools’ staff how they were going to meet this new requirement, said Brian Freeman, a member of the district’s wellness team. The school district’s leaders stressed that the law doesn’t allow inclusion of after-school activities toward the 54 daily minutes of physical activity, Freeman said.

Schools in this district came up with different strategies to reach the activity goal during school hours. Nunamiut School in Anaktuvuk Pass reports using dancing during its school-wide morning opening time to reach its goal. Nuiqsut Trapper School has recess and physical education classes every day for their students. Ipalook Elementary School in Barrow is incorporating Brain Gym exercises into its teachers’ daily lesson plans.

The Alaska School Health program, within the Division of Public Health, has created a webpage providing resources and options to assist school districts in their planning efforts to meet the requirements of SB 200. Visit http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/SchoolHealth/physicalactivity.aspx for guidance, including sample scheduling options, recommended classroom-based physical activity resources, and model language to ensure school district wellness policies (also known as the Student Nutrition and Physical Activity policies) meet the new requirements of this law. 

  
10/4/2016 9:15 AM

HealthyDrinks_ServeWaterOrMilk_sm.pngWhen you drink a soda, the large amount of sugar hiding inside can start doing its damage right away in the mouth.

Soda, sports drinks, powdered mixes and other sugary drinks can lead to cavities in teeth. They can cause unhealthy weight gain in the body and damage to the heart. They can lead to blood vessels carrying too much sugar – a condition known as type-2 diabetes.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) started its Play Every Day sugary drink campaign with a main focus on the connection between sugary drinks and unhealthy weight gain. This fall, department program directors working on Play Every Day and obesity prevention are teaming up with department directors focused on dental health to strive for a similar goal: reduce sugary drink consumption among Alaska families to improve the health of their entire bodies – from their mouths to their waistlines to the health of their hearts and blood vessels.

“The new Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project provides a great opportunity for public health and dental professionals to team up to cut sugary drink consumption,” said Karol Fink, manager of the department’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program.

“The campaign will engage dentists and dental hygienists to educate young Alaska children and their parents during routine dental exams about the large amount of sugar hiding in drinks, why too much sugar is harmful to the health of teeth and general health of the child, and why water and plain white milk are the healthiest drink options,” said Dr. Brad Whistler, manager of the department’s Oral Health Program. “These Alaska families likely won’t forget these important health messages from their dental appointments as Play Every Day will be reinforcing this information in TV Public Service Announcements running in communities across Alaska and in posters in health clinics and in schools.”

This two-year pilot project is being funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve dental health and prevent obesity and other chronic diseases in Alaska. Across the state, about 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. About 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. During the 2010-11 school year, dentists under contract with the Alaska Oral Health Program examined the teeth of young children in Alaska and found 41% of kindergartners had a filling or an untreated cavity on at least one tooth at the time of the screening. Rates of past or present cavities were even higher in third-graders, with 62% of students having past or present decay on at least one tooth at the time of the screening.

Between now and August 2018, DHSS health program directors will partner with dental providers to reduce sugary drink consumption among their patients, especially families with young children; expand the Play Every Day campaign’s sugary drink prevention efforts; and provide dental and public health clinics with patient educational materials.

Reducing sugary drink consumption in Alaska is essential, given that many Alaskans drink too many sugary beverages, and they’re drinking them every single day. Just one sugary drink — such as one bottle of soda with 16 teaspoons of added sugar — has more added sugar than people should have in one day based on the new sugar limits in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• 42% of Alaska adults and Alaska high school students drink one of more sodas or sugary drinks every day (2013 BRFSS, 2015 YRBS)
• One out of 5 Alaska parents of elementary-age children serves their children a sugary drink every day, and two out of three parents serve their kids sugary drinks one or more times each week. (2014 Play Every Day Statewide Telephone Survey)

During the next two years, the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project will offer training to dental clinics and providers to ask their patients about sugary drinks, advise patients to reduce consumption, and assist these patients in coming up with a plan to reduce the sugary drinks in their diets and replace them with water. The project also will build on the recognizable Play Every Day campaign, creating specific educational messages to support the work of dental providers. Play Every Day’s current educational messages focused on reducing sugary drink consumption and promoting water are found online and will be updated when new materials become available.

To learn more about this partnership, visit the Healthy Drinks for Healthy Kids project or contact playeveryday@alaska.gov.

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