Every kid suffers bumps and bruises growing up; it’s just part of being a kid. As parents, we try our best to protect our children from unintentional injuries as they get out and play. Still, hundreds of Alaska children end up hospitalized with injuries every year.
What are the leading causes of injuries that require a visit to the hospital?
No. 1 is falls. Falling is the main reason children up to age 14 are hospitalized with injuries, according to information gleaned by the Department of Health and Social Services’ Injury Prevention Program from the Alaska Trauma Registry. The registry includes trauma-related information collected when people leave the hospital.
For children ages 5 to 9 years old, another leading cause is an injury from falling on a playground.
“Over the past 10 years, there has been a real push to improve playground safety,” said Dr. Jo Fisher, the injury prevention program manager. “Playground designers are looking at improved construction, safer materials and increased padding,” she said. “But it’s important that parents be there when their children are on the playground — plus, it’s a great opportunity for the parents to be active as well.”
Next on the list for children ages 5 to 9 is injuries from bike riding.
“Most bicycle injury reports include the phrase ‘lost control and fell’,” Dr. Fisher said. She stressed that parents need to be sure that their children are wearing approved bicycle helmets and that they need to be aware that helmet-wearing is required by law for children under age 16 in Anchorage and Kenai, and for children under age 18 in Bethel, Juneau and Sitka. Parents should also make sure that the bike their child rides is the right size and is in good mechanical condition. Check with your local fire department to learn about bike safety classes, bike rodeos and the availability of helmets in your area.
To prevent injuries, pay attention to your feet.
“Play activity should include proper footwear,” Dr. Fisher said. “Flip-flops cause falls and provide very little protection for your feet.”
For older children from 10 to 14, riding All-Terrain-Vehicles is a leading cause of injuries. Three to four children often ride an ATV at the same time, driving it to school in our rural communities, Dr. Fisher said. More children are inclined to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle than when riding an ATV, she said. The faster something goes, the more severe the injuries can be. Helmets are critical when it comes to riding on ATVs, she said.
Don’t forget about life jackets (a.k.a. personal flotation devices or PFDs) when recreating on or near the water. The state’s Kids Don’t Float program provides free loaner life jackets at many locations around the state.
Let’s all do our part to keep our kids safe and healthy while they get out and play, 60 minutes a day.
For more information, see the latest list of the 10 leading causes of non-fatal hospitalized injuries for all Alaskans.
What does it look like in spring when dozens of Alaska kids decide to get out and play?
It looks like biking, hiking and running in the woods. Native dancing and doing the high-kick.
It looks like jumping in puddles during the same week another child sit-skis down the mountain. And it looks like tumbling, sliding at the playground, and kicking around the soccer ball.
Last month we filmed Alaska kids doing all different types of physical activity to show that the possibilities for play are endless. The new 30-second TV public service announcement is packed with a fun and simple message: No matter what you like to do, just get out and play – 60 minutes – every day.
“All children, regardless of their ability or disability, benefit from physical activity,” said Amanda Cooper, the Health and Disability Program Manager with the Section of Women’s, Children’s and Family Health. “The Play Every Day campaign is the perfect avenue to encourage children of all abilities to get out and play.”
The Alaska days just keep getting longer and longer, making it easier to find a sunny stretch of 60 minutes. So there’s only one question: How will you choose to use that 60 minutes to get out and play?
Bike to School Day melds safety with everything kids love about cycling — the independence, the exhilaration, and the fresh air. This year’s National Bike to School Day on May 6 will involve over 50 Alaska schools and thousands of students.
Last year, Anchorage registered more schools than any other participating community nationwide. Schools can still register now, though it’s not required for participation.
“The event promotes life-long fitness and healthy habits,” noted Kim Resheske, a P.E. teacher at Kincaid Elementary and a Bike to School Coordinator for the Anchorage School District. “It also teaches students that it is important to ride safely.”
Bike to School rules are simple. Students must wear a helmet and they should wear bright clothing and follow the guidelines of the Safe Routes to School Program:
Wear a helmet.
Ride in the same direction as traffic.
Be alert to changing traffic conditions.
Obey all traffic signs and signals.
Ocean View Elementary students will get an extra bonus this year when Olympic cross country skiers and siblings Sadie Bjornsen and Erik Bjornsen, along with Paralympic athlete Andrew Kurka, join them for the ride.
But whoever you ride with and wherever you live, Bike to School Day champions pedal power as a way to get out and play, every day.
The American Heart Association’s Alaska Heart Run will travel along a new course this year, but its mission remains the same: To help prevent heart disease and stroke while encouraging families and friends to stick together. This year’s event on Saturday, April 25, will start and finish at the UAA Alaska Airlines Center parking lot in Anchorage. The timed race starts at 9:30 a.m., and the untimed run and walk gets underway at 10 a.m.
Whether you race, walk, skip or jog, the 5K course provides an opportunity to support health, have some fun and maybe achieve a personal best race time for the 3-plus miles.
Online registration for the timed 5K run ended April 17, but you can still register for the untimed event online through April 23 and at bib pick-up days or the day of the race. Register or pick up bibs at the King Career Center, 2650 E. Northern Lights Blvd., from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, April 22 and 24. Registration fees for the timed event (including late fees applied after April 18) are $35 for adults and $20 for children ages 4 to 18. Fees for the untimed event are $30 for adults and $15 for kids. Kids under age 4 run for free. All children ages 6 and under receive a commemorative medal for completing the run.
Money raised at the Heart Run will benefit the American Heart Association and will fund research and community programs that help prevent heart disease and stroke in both adults and children.
To that end, staff from the Alaska Children’s Heart Center will be at the Heart Run again this year teaching CPR. Every spring, the center sponsors and supports the Heart Run, said Dr. Kitty Wellmann, a specialist with the center. They host a booth and teach CPR to anyone who wants to learn, she said.
(photos copyright 2015 Lisa J. Seifert, used with permission)
It’s just after 9 a.m., you’ve missed breakfast, you’re hungry, and lunch is still hours away. What do you do?
If you go to Petersburg High School, you’re in luck.
It’s called the Second Chance Breakfast, and Petersburg High School offers it between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m. every day of the school year. Ginger Evens from the Petersburg City School District said the breakfast is one way to help students be more alert in the morning and successful in class.
Petersburg High School has about 140 students who start school at 8:30 every day. About 20 students show up at 7:30 for an early-morning band class and some high school students rush to get to school, run late and show up on an empty stomach, Evens said.
“When we serve Second Chance Breakfast at 9:20, then they’re ready to eat something,” she said.
The school does not have pre-school breakfast service but it has offered Second Chance Breakfast since January 2014. Last school year, an average of 28 students and staff ate the extra breakfast every day; this school year, the extra breakfast was moved to an earlier time each morning and about 18 people eat each day. Evens said the district is watching the numbers to see if any changes are needed to improve the program.
Petersburg’s extra breakfast is a collaboration between the district’s food service program and several classes at the high school. A student from the metal shop class built the cart that serves the breakfast, and students from special education classes prepare the cart each morning and hand out several options for purchase, including fruit, whole-grain snacks, milk, yogurt and granola — foods that meet the federal nutrition guidelines.
The Second Chance Breakfast costs $2 for students and $3 for staff, but it is free or less expensive for those who qualify for free and reduced-cost meals served at school, Evens said. The students running the breakfast cart collect the money and then put the proceeds back into the school’s food service program, said Evens, the district’s Healthy Living Grant Coordinator.
Petersburg is one of eight school districts across Alaska that received a grant from the state’s Obesity Prevention and Control Program to improve physical activity and nutrition options for students. The grant funding helped the school purchase a refrigerator to store the breakfast food, as well as materials to serve it, Evens said.
Petersburg High School plans to continue offering the Second Chance Breakfast. Evens said the extra morning meal is critical to some students who lack food at home.
“The food that they are getting at school is really the only food that they are getting,” she said. “It’s really important that we provide nutritious foods for them.”
During the first-ever Tough Slusher race last April, there wasn’t any slush at all. Kids and families completed the short fun run in Anchorage on snow-covered trails, shuffling through some slick patches of ice.
Not this April.
Winter came and went early this year and this year’s Tough Slusher, scheduled for this Saturday, April 11, at 10 a.m., may live up to its name. Participants are encouraged to have their rubber boots ready, said Harlow Robinson, Healthy Futures executive director. Healthy Futures, Play Every Day’s partner in physical activity, has organized the 2K and 5K run/walk on the Service High School trails. The race is one of the official events recognizing the Anchorage Centennial. Banners will hang on the race course to celebrate every decade of Anchorage’s recreation history.
The race is not competitive and is open to people of all ages. There is no registration fee, but donations will go to Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. Healthy Futures has the mission of encouraging Alaska children to build the daily habit of physical activity for good health, and it supports that mission by organizing low-cost family-friendly events and school-based physical activity challenges each year. (Kids, you can count the Tough Slusher as an activity on your Healthy Futures Challenge log for April!)
There is no registration fee, but the event is a fundraiser and donations will go to Healthy Futures, the signature program of the nonprofit Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.Tough Slusher participants who contribute a minimum donation of $20 will receive a Healthy Futures T-shirt; those who contribute more than $40 can receive a Healthy Futures hoodie. You can register online using this form. If you have any questions about the race or the registration process, contact email@example.com. Bib pickup and late registration will take place at the northeast corner of the Service High School parking lot from 9 – 9:45 a.m.
See you at the Healthy Futures Tough Slusher this Saturday.
The finish line is approaching, and thousands of Alaska kids are on their way to completing the challenge.
This week starts the last month of the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge. This spring, more than 11,000 students from about 175 elementary schools across Alaska are participating in the free, school-based challenge that helps kids get physically active. Students in schools from Kaktovik to Ketchikan and St. Paul to Eagle are tracking their activity each week, getting closer to the 60 minutes of daily activity recommended for the best health.
Winter seems to be on its way out already in many parts of Alaska, which opens up lots of new ways to get out and play. We know kids are strapping on their helmets and heading out for their first bike rides of the spring. They’re pulling on their rain boots and splashing through the nearest puddle. Families are signing up for the Healthy Futures Tough Slusher – the Anchorage race on April 11 that celebrates having fun during breakup (But more on that next week!)
Alaska children are tracking this activity on their Healthy Futures Challenge logs. To participate in the Challenge, students at elementary schools need to log their activity for the month on a simple form that they get at school. At the end of the month, they turn the log in to a teacher or a school volunteer for a cool prize. Physical activity logs will be due the last week of April. The prize for the April Challenge is a hackey sack. Children who have completed all three months of the Challenge this spring — February, March and April — will be entered in a grand prize drawing for a sports package of their choice.
Not sure if your child’s school is participating? Ask your child’s teacher or visit the Healthy Futures website. Schools will be signing up soon for the Fall 2015 Physical Activity Challenge, so encourage your school’s principals and teachers to participate.
In Alaska, where the ground is often buried in snow or slick with ice, some kids come to school wearing shoes that are duct-taped together.
Two boys want to play for the school basketball team. The trick is they both can’t play at the same time, because they need to share the same pair of shoes.
A coach knows that if he doesn’t buy shoes for his athletes, he won’t have enough kids to make up a team.
Colleen Franks had heard all these stories from Alaska schools and knew something had to be done to put shoes — shoes that fit right and protect the feet — on all children going to school. That’s how Franks, a business owner in Anchorage, started working with schools districts, businesses and partners throughout Alaska to create the nonprofit shoe recycling program called Kicks for Kids.
“It’s been three years, and we’ve given out close to 3,000 pairs of shoes now from preschool through 12th (grade),” Franks said.
“There are schools where we are trying to get shoes and boots on every kid,” Franks said. “The need is ridiculously high.”
Franks and her family run Aurora Kids Gymnastics for young children in Anchorage. Her goal is to provide opportunities for sports, and overall fitness, to Alaska kids.
“When I started to realize that so many kids were having difficulty participating because they didn’t have the proper shoes, it really bothered me,” she said.
Franks received support from the Anchorage School District. This school year, Aquarian Charter School in Anchorage donated one pair of shoes for each student enrolled at the school, Franks said. Franks also partners with an Alaska nonprofit organization called “The Basics,” which helps raise funds to support Kicks for Kids.
Each Anchorage school and some schools in other Alaska school districts now have buckets to collect shoes that can be shared with children in need. Parents and others can donate shoes, rain boots and winter boots that their children have outgrown. If teachers notice a child in need, they can pull a pair of shoes from their school’s bucket and put them on the child right there. When buckets overflow with shoes, Franks collects them, brings them home, washes them and creates an inventory for other schools that need more shoes than they have in their buckets.
Franks said the Kicks for Kids team of volunteers brought 250 pairs to 18 different schools during a recent week. The program also sent dozens of shoes to Kenai schools. Kicks for Kids is sharing shoes with children in other communities, too, including Eagle River, Dillingham, Fairbanks, even Anaktuvuk Pass.
“The goal is we go statewide,” Franks said.
Kicks for Kids also partners with businesses, like Skinny Raven Sports in Anchorage.
“We’re all about trying to promote healthy lifestyles,” said John Clark, who handles the store’s purchasing. Skinny Raven asks Kicks for Kids to stop by frequently to pick up shoes for children in need.
The store donates used shoes from its customers, last year’s models of sneakers, returned shoes, even demo shoes that are often used just a few times and are still in great shape.
Franks said she often hears how grateful the children are for the new shoes.
“These are the best shoes the kids have ever had,” she said.
Kicks for Kids shoes go to kids who need them to participate in school track and sports teams, but they also go to kids who just need something to protect their growing feet. To help Kicks for Kids, parents can add their children’s outgrown shoes to buckets in schools in Anchorage and other communities. Franks said the program takes all shoes and boots, no matter how beaten up they are from use – “Nothing goes to waste.” People also can donate to The Basics to support programs like Kicks for Kids. To learn more, visit Kicks for Kids on Facebook.
* Photo courtesy of the Kicks for Kids program.
So, you read our blog about the importance of reading the ingredient lists on the foods and drinks you consume. Now you’ve decided to start keeping track of your sugar intake by keeping an eye on those nutrition labels.
That bowl of granola you had for breakfast — the one made with all natural ingredients, the one with nuts and flax seeds—can contain 14 grams of sugar.
That drink you had for lunch — the one loaded with protein and made with all organic ingredients — that protein drink can contain 12 grams of sugar.
A 12-ounce can of regular cola contains 39 grams of sugar.
The problem is “grams” doesn’t really mean that much to us. How much is 12 grams of sugar?
Here’s a simple mathematical formula that can help you manage the amount of “hidden” sugar you consume every day. It converts grams to teaspoons — the unit of measure we’re more familiar with in the kitchen.
By dividing the total grams of sugar by four, you get the number of teaspoons. So, for example, four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar — about the same amount found in most sugar packets.
Even if you don’t sprinkle any additional sugar on your bowl of granola, it can already contain three and a half teaspoons of sugar (14 grams). You’d never add three and a half teaspoons of sugar to a bowl of cereal, but it’s in there already. Your lunchtime protein drink contains three teaspoons of added sugar (12 grams), and a can of cola contains just almost 10 teaspoons of added sugar (39 grams).
Get your kids involved in doing the math on their foods and drinks. They can learn how to find those hidden sugars and add them up.
Buying healthy drinks for your family can be very confusing. That’s because the words you may find on the front of a bottle don’t always tell you what’s in the drink. They don’t tell you about the large amount of sugar that can be hiding inside.
Pick up a bottle of a sugary drink and the front label may use words that make the drink sound healthy:
“Loaded with vitamins.”
“All natural flavors.”
This is the main message in Play Every Day’s new public service announcement running on TV stations in communities across Alaska. The PSA features a dad shopping in a grocery store with his children. When the kids pull a powdered drink and a vitamin-enhanced drink from the store shelf, the dad turns the bottles around and shows them the ingredient list. If sweeteners are listed as one of the first three ingredients, the drink is loaded with sugar.
When you’re looking for sugar on the ingredient list, watch out for other words. Sweeteners go by many names, including common ones like honey and syrup, as well as high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose and fruit nectar.
Next time you shop with your children, look for sodas, powdered drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks on the shelves. Turn the bottles around and show your kids the ingredient lists. Help them find the added sugars and ask them if these sugars are listed among the first three ingredients.