Reader's View: Childhood obesity epidemic demands collaborative response

November 12, 2013 

The statistics are all too familiar: 1 in 3 Idaho children are obese or overweight. Children are eating unhealthy foods that are loaded with sugar and saturated fat. Television and video games are more appealing than playing outside with friends. We see and hear these situations so often that it is easy to look past.

But we must not look past. Obesity puts kids at greater risk for health problems today and makes it more likely they will develop chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease in the future.

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health believes preventing childhood obesity should be a key public health priority in our state. To accomplish this goal, the people and organizations trying to reverse the obesity trend need to work together to create lasting change. That’s why the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation formed the High Five Children’s Health Collaborative — to bring together a wide base of partners to lend their expertise to the challenge.

So, why this initiative when there are independent programs promoting activities for children and nutrition? Because, as the statistics continue to show, childhood obesity is a bigger problem than any one organization or community can solve on its own. It’s time to be stronger, together.

The High Five Children’s Health Collaborative has already begun. We are working with groups like Be Outside Idaho, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s Healthy Eating Active Living Idaho coalition and health systems throughout the state to provide children and families access to healthy programs and nutritious food regardless of income or ZIP code.

In addition to bringing partners together, the High Five Children’s Health Collaborative is promoting proven healthy-living strategies in communities throughout the state. By helping communities take action and find lasting solutions, we can make real change.

We do this by supporting programs aimed at five initiatives. These steps to success include: increasing physical activity, improving access to healthy foods, building healthier schools, educating families and promoting public policies that fight the causes of obesity.

The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health launched the High Five Collaborative by awarding $840,000 to communities to take the steps to create healthy environments for Idaho children.

The winning cities — Nampa, Lapwai, Middleton and Kuna — received $150,000 to $300,000 over three years to make positive changes in their communities. Finalist cities Meridian, Moscow and Pocatello joined the High Five Children’s Health Collaborative Ambassador Program to fight childhood obesity in their communities and receive $30,000 over two years. If successful, we will repeat this grant program three times, contributing up to $2 million to raise efforts and awareness to fight this epidemic.

The programs these grants support is the first step in a long march that the High Five Collaborative and its partners will undertake to create sustainable, positive change in our communities. In fact, we selected winners of the grant funding by the amount of support received through Facebook votes and “Daily Do” sign-ups on the High Five Idaho website.

The Daily Do is a daily reminder, through text message or email, for healthy eating tips, alerts for local healthy living events, and inspiration to stay physically active. I encourage each of you to sign up for this new resource, and start new healthy habits.

It is time to take action. We all need to hold ourselves responsible for improving the current state of our health and move forward. Let’s create opportunities for Idaho children to live full, healthy, happy lives. Join with the High Five Children’s Health Collaborative to help achieve this goal. You can get more information at highfiveidaho.org.

Zelda Geyer-Sylvia is the chairman of the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health and president and CEO of Blue Cross of Idaho.

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