A $24.8 million federal grant has been awarded to the University of Hawaii at Manoa to try to get children in the Pacific to eat healthier and become more active.
The grant to combat childhood obesity will go to the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources to fund the Children’s Health Living Program for Remote Underserved Minority Populations in the Pacific. UH will collaborate with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, the University of Guam, American Samoa Community College, the College of the Northern Marianas and the College of Micronesia to conduct research and outreach.
Research will include factors that affect a child’s health, from psychology to parenting skills as well as social and environmental influences, according to Roger Beachy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The team will then develop food, nutrition and physical activity intervention and monitoring systems.
The project will engage the community to make lasting changes based on solid research that is specifically targeted to minorities in that region and their unique challenges, Beachy said via video from Washington, D.C.
In Hawaii, more than 30 percent of children are overweight or obese.
"This is more than just a problem," said UH-Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw during a news briefing yesterday at the Lanakila Park Head Start Center in Liliha. "It is a health crisis that we must address."
Parent Ashley Robino of Waianae said she’s grateful the issue is being addressed as her 6-year-old daughter faces health risks such as diabetes because of her obesity. During the news briefing, Robino shared how changes in portion sizes have helped her daughter toward healthy living.
Rachel Novotny, a professor of nutrition at the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences who is principal investigator of the project, said it’s vital to shift the social, physical and economic environment to encourage and sustain a healthy lifestyle for children, families and communities to prevent obesity and its health complications.