Community input on Promoting Healthy Lifestyle
This past December and January, American Samoa Community College Community and Natural Resources (ASCC CNR) staff reached out to the public by holding four meetings to discuss ways to promote healthy living habits. These meetings took place in Fagaitua, Tula, Aua, and Aoloau, and gave parents, teachers, and community leaders a chance to express their input on encouraging families to eat more fruits and vegetables, drink more water and less sugar-sweetened beverages, exercise more, and get enough sleep.
The meetings are an important part of a US Department of Agriculture grant called the Children’s Healthy Living (CHL) program, which aims to combat childhood obesity. Knowing that “it takes a village to raise a child,” CHL wants to engage whole communities in helping prevent healthy weight children from becoming obese adults. Serious, debilitating ailments such as heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, certain cancers, and high blood pressure are linked to obesity. These non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, shorten lives and place heavy physical, emotional, and financial burdens on families and on the health care system. To prevent these diseases, we must prevent their underlying cause--obesity.
Most children begin at a healthy weight, but as they age many gain excessive pounds quickly owing to diets of too much soda, candy, and chips and too little pak choi, breadfruit, and papaya. And instead of getting at least an hour of vigorous outdoor play each day, they spend too much time watching television and videos and playing Nintendo. Because lack of sleep has been shown to lead to overweight and poor grades in school, children should get at least nine hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly to develop well.
To tackle these problems, ASCC CNR is working with researchers and Cooperative Extension Agents in Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Under the leadership of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, CHL will test the ideas gathered from community meetings, both here and at other jurisdictions, to devise possible interventions to prevent children aged 2 to 5 years from gaining excessive weight during the two-year study.
In addition, CHL is sponsoring two candidates from each jurisdiction with full scholarships to earn degrees in a health field to continue the effort once the grant ends in 2016. Many other agencies and departments in American Samoa, public and private, are doing all that they can to educate the public on healthy living. CHL hopes that its contribution will provide the extra effort needed to make the Territory an outstanding example in the global fight against obesity and its attendant NCDs.
The ASCC CNR CHL team comprises Tapa’au Dr. Daniel Aga (Dean/Director and Chairman of our Local Advisory Committee), Dr. Don Vargo (Lead Site Co-Investigator), Aufa’i Apulu Ropeti Areta (Site Co-Investigator), Ms. Siaunofo Logologo (Site Program Manager, Extension), Ms. Rebecca Fiame (Assistant Site Program Manager, Extension), Ms. Sharon Fanolua Sunia (Site Program Manager, Research), and Ms. Agnes Vargo (Intervention Specialist), with the assistance of Ms. Helen Lago, Ms. Marie Chan Kau, and the Expanded Family and Nutrition Education Program staff. The team is aided by a 15-member Local Advisory Committee composed of knowledgeable and influential members of the health, medical, education, and business communities.